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 HEART OF MIDNIGHT (SEQUEL TO DISCOVERING A LEGEND)

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PostSubject: HEART OF MIDNIGHT (SEQUEL TO DISCOVERING A LEGEND)   Sat Jan 10, 2009 11:15 am

Not sure if everyone has read my short story "Discovering a Legend" or not, here is the sequel. Because of the length, I will have to post in two parts.

Please R&R. Enjoy!

*************************************

HEART OF MIDNIGHT

PROLOGUE


Undoubtly one of the most exquisite landmarks in France had to be the Paris Opera. Originally commissioned by Napoleon III, the décor of this unique building exhibited an abundance of symbols representing the theatre; lyres, masks with grimacing faces and Apollo, Greek deity of the arts and creative energy. More than this, a mysterious lake existed beneath, one that could not be drained away. This same lake and edifice figured in Gaston Leroux’s famous novel, The Phantom of the Opera.

Nowadays ballets, rather than operas, grace the stage. Modern day people do not allow their minds to clutter with old wives’ tales and forgotten lore, but a full body apparition or a vocal manifestation simply cannot be ignored.

Mme. de Longes present director of le corps de ballet refused to set foot in any part of the theatre after seeing a black mass glide across the stage during rehearsals at ten in the morning. As if watching it move between her and a young dancer didn’t frighten her enough; it whispered something she tried to forget, but could not.

At forty-something, Mme. de Longes appeared in good health, physically and mentally and still attracted the opposite sex after her husband’s passing. Up until now, she had never believed in ghosts or communication from the other side. But whatever the black mass whispered nearly scared her to death.

Renaud Auberjeanois current manager of the Paris Opera scoffed at de Longes’ story and put her on suspension. Perhaps a leave of absence to rest would clear the mind and restore her to health and reality. Then he decided to direct the ballet himself. After all, he had spent five years as a dancer years before becoming the manager. Surely he would not allow gossip and superstition to rule his life.

Tall, ruggedly handsome Renaud succeeded in directing the ballet a total of three hours when the he noticed a glint of something from tier three box five. Even at one in the afternoon, only the stage had lights. The empty seats remained dark. Assuming the glint came from one of the cleaning crew, he ignored it, until one of the dancers screamed.

Looking up, he and the entire corps de ballet saw a tall, darkly clad figure with a cape and hat pulled down around its face. From the balcony seats, two angry embers bored a hole through them from the abyss of darkness.

“Il est ici! Le Fantôme de l’Opéra! Il est ici! (He’s here! The Phantom of the Opera! He’s here!)” screamed the girls and Renaud as they scrambled for the exit leaving behind the echoes of maniacal laughter from an unseen madman.

********************************

CHAPTER 1 (First Part)

World Wide Paranormal Investigators (WWPI)


Nestled in downtown Los Angels, California, World Wide Paranormal Investigators or WWPI, bore the reputation as one of the most popular and sought after agencies to investigate and debunk the paranormal. Headed by founders Lars Jurgenson and Todd Foster, WWPI had a credit of authenticating seventy hauntings and debunking more than two hundred.

The two men sat around a table discussing results from their last case, when shapely Donna Anders sauntered through the open door. After smiles and greetings, the young woman announced their next case.

“Wait a minute; we’re supposed to investigate the Paris Opera House?” Lars laughed and ran his fingers through his ash blond hair. “What are we looking for, the Phantom?” At this both men broke into hysterics. When they realized Donna hadn’t cracked a smile, the laughter ceased.

“Seriously. We’re going to investigate the opera house and look for the Phantom?” Todd grew dead serious. His ruddy face expressed surprise and interest.

“That’s right. Renaud Auberjeanois current manger of the Paris Opera says they’ve seen full body apparitions, a black mass, numerous accidents, disembodied voices, laughter when no one’s there and being touched by unseen hands,” the lovely Donna sat across from the men and flashed those sparkling blue eyes. Both Lars and Todd always stayed faithful to their wives, but what a boost to the male ego in having a shapely blonde give you a little come hither look.

She continued, “They want this kept hush-hush, but really do believe Erik, the Phantom is trying to scare them out of the building. The dancers won’t back into the theatre, let alone the stage. The manger saw it too. The full body apparition was described as a dim silhouette wearing a cape and hat. Under the hat, two glowing eyes glare at them.”

“That’s just wild!” Excitement mounted in Todd. The thrill of the hunt made his adrenaline flow.

“A place like that would probably have more then one spirit,” Lars said as the anticipation grew.

“Right again. Now remember, some of the locals may be a little superstitious. I was in Paris right after college and I ran into more than one who believed ‘many souls’ inhabited one place or another,” Donna offered as she arose to leave the room.

Todd and Lars smiled as they watched her swing those luscious hips. Shaking their head to get back to business, they exchanged looks. Smiles spread across their faces at the thought of their new case. Neither one had been to Paris and the opportunity to check out such an ancient and venerable landmark thrilled them to no end.

“Guess we should watch the Phantom of the Opera jokes. She gets so testy,” Todd looked serious.

“Sometimes I forget she’s such a fan,” Lars chuckled softly.

“It’s not just that, she actually believes the Phantom was real,” Todd furrowed his brow.

“Guess we’ll find out one way or the other,” Lars reached for the telephone. “If he had existed, he’s dead now. All we gotta do is ask.” By this, he meant asking the spirit. It’s the practice of WWPI to ask spirits to identify themselves and say what they want. This may or may not result in an answer. Occasionally, they get an answer they didn’t want.

Paranormal activity had been of deep interest to them for many years. They met at a local ghost hunting/paranormal convention six years ago. Soon they discovered they both had experienced a paranormal event and had a sensitivity for such. Upon finding they shared the same opinion in investigating and either debunking or uncovering the truth, they decided to form an agency to do just that. So World Wide Paranormal Instigations (WWPI) began to form.

Members of their team included Donna Anders, who joined nearly two years ago, exhibited a good sense of organization in the office and a great sensitivity to spectres reaching out to communicate.

Another member of the team answered only to his given name Tremaine; no last name. He specialized in the setting up and use of all cameras, computers, as well as thermal imaging and EVP recorders. EVP stands for electronic voice phenomena. Some disembodied voices cannot be heard with the naked ear, but can be recorded and played back on a special device to record EVP’s. Thermal imaging detects heat emitted from something. Should a ghost be there this device will indicate and record energy heat.

Marco Cortez, long time friend of Lars, joined the team last year. With an extensive background in the occult, Marco had both proven and debunked a number of cases he’d taken on his own, before joining WWPI. Several included fraud in claims channeling the dead and healing through magick. In past cases, he helped the team expose several claims of hauntings which in reality had been staged by the so-called victims hoping to get fame and money from the attention.

The last two members joined after WWPI helped rid their parent’s home of a mischievous poltergeist which nearly drove the family insane and out of their own house. Ray and Dillon Troy brought to the team their expertise of cultural traditions, myths and monsters both local and abroad. The brothers both held bachelors degrees; one in Social Science and the other in Psychology.

Lars and Todd made arrangements for them and the team to arrive in Paris in the next day or so. Most of the team made their share of Phantom jokes, except Donna, who seemed more than a little upset with the irreverence. Todd tried to respect her feelings, but Lars couldn’t pass up a chance whenever he saw an opening to poke fun. He didn’t mean to hurt her, but the thought of the Phantom being more than a book, stage play, or movie just seemed extremely amusing.

Out of the group, only Donna had been a Phantom fan. She’d read the novel by Gaston Leroux and every other book related to it. As well as watching every film version Donna had seen the popular stage performance at least three times, with different actors playing the Phantom. Like all devoted fans, a part of Donna believed Erik the Phantom had truly existed as Leroux stated in the beginning of his novel. Even though, she had no visual or recorded proof, she still believed.

Three days later the WWPI team found themselves at the Paris Opera á La Place de l’ Opéra. From the outside the building appeared awesome enough, with Apollo looking down from atop the massive Baroque architecture. However when they walked inside their eyes feasted on the exquisite décor of statuary strewn about the building, famed paintings of Degas, ornate ceilings and magnificent chandeliers. Could one of them be similar to the chandelier the Phantom brought down in the middle of the celebrated novel? Or was it really a counterweight?

Renaud Auberjeanois met them with open arms. At last the noted paranormal investigators had arrived to rid him of the angry spectre upsetting his opera house.

Without hesitation, he took Lars and Todd on a tour to all the paranormal hot spots.

The stage looked pretty empty and normal. Renaud recalled Mme. de Longes experiencing a black mass move across the stage between her and one of the dancers and then whispering some foreboding message. A message she shared with no one.

The team then heard Mme. de Longes tell the same story of the black mass crossing the stage. When she began to tell what it whispered, a chill ran through her, making her teeth chatter and hands shake. An invisible force pressed against her chest trying to keep her from telling the message, but she fought to get the words out.

“Leave now or die like the others.” The words finally fell from her lips. Lars and Todd couldn’t have been more surprised. Not many hauntings have violence or threats associated with them. This would truly prove challenging. Unlike the ballet mistress, they felt no fear, for they hadn’t seen or heard it.

“…die like the others,” they thought. “What did that mean?”

When they inquired if there had been any mysterious deaths, Renaud paled and began to stammer. He recalled the night they found Guy Buquet hanging between some props in the third cellar just like his ancestor so many years ago. Guy descended from Joseph Buquet, the stagehand who allegedly died by the Phantom’s hand in the novel. And just like Joseph, Guy hung by a strange rope, or rather lasso; a sickening yellow in color. The mere thought made Renaud shiver.

END OF FIRST PART
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PostSubject: Re: HEART OF MIDNIGHT (SEQUEL TO DISCOVERING A LEGEND)   Sat Jan 10, 2009 11:16 am

CHAPTER 1 (CONCLUSION OF FIRST PART)

As he pointed to tier three box five, the alleged favorite seat of the legendary Phantom, Renaud told of the full body apparition dressed in black, with a flowing cape and fedora pulled down around its face. No doubt they had seen the Phantom in all his dark splendor manifesting his displeasure for something. A shiver ran down the man’s spine at the recollection of such a horrific sight.

When asked about the accidents, Renaud mentioned several, one when a backdrop fell from overhead on to the stage near the prima ballerina rehearsing; another when a stagehand complained of being shoved about as if someone kept passing and bumping into him, and lastly, when some props fell over and pinned a couple of dancers to the floor. From these, no one got hurt, but in a couple several years ago, prior to Renaud becoming manger, a dancer and the prop master died.

From all accounts given, it seemed the WWPI had its work cut out for them. The team agreed to spend a week in the building. Staying in the old dormitories gave them a better opportunity to investigate. They always jumped at the chance to take more than one night to ghost hunt, pardon the corny term.

After half an hour of setting up cameras on the stage and box five, they set up audio recorders and moved to the third cellar and did the same. Next came their individual rooms. Something had to haunt them as well, so they set up the same equipment there and in the corridors, before settling in for the night.

With no performances this evening, the building seemed quite desolate, having the feel of a cemetery or tomb; not from the silence, but the heaviness of an impending, unimaginable horror.

Sensitive to other worldly things, Donna sat on stage with Tremaine, having only a dim light backstage for visibility. The young man held a device which measured temperature while Donna held a flashlight and mini cassette recorder.

Lars and Todd sat in box five overlooking the stage. Here they remained enveloped in darkness watching Donna and Tremaine, hoping for something paranormal to happen.

Set up with computers, monitors and recorders to catch EVP’s and thermal images, the manger’s office made a perfect command post with Ray Troy at the helm. From here he could see Lars and Todd in one monitor; Donna and Tremaine in another and his brother Dillon and Marco snooping around in the third cellar. The other two monitors automatically shifted from the bedrooms to the corridor at selected times.

10: 00 pm – One hour into the investigation made the team a little bored and restless. So far nothing had happened.

Midnight - After another couple of uneventful hours, the investigators started chatting with each other about personal things.

On stage, Donna and Tremaine moved about quietly asking for a sign if anyone stood on stage with them. Assuring the spirit or spirits they meant no harm, the two continued asking for a sign; a knock on the wall, move chair, or a simple touch on the arm.

In his gentle, mid-western accent, Tremaine asked Donna if she had a boyfriend or husband, to which she answered “no” to both. This brought a smile to his handsome face and more intimate fantasies came to mind. Donna liked him, but maybe not the way he liked her.

Something rustled backstage, interrupting the moment. The two fell silent and listened. Again came the soft rustling. Cautiously, the two moved toward the backstage.
From the balcony seat of box five, Lars and Todd noticed the activity on stage and called by radio and asked if they needed help. When they said ‘no’, the founders of WWPI settled back in their seats chatting about their wives and kids and who would win this season’s basket ball championship. They had already asked if a spirit occupied the box and to show them a sign. When nothing happened, the conversation had turned to idle chatter.

In the dank, dimness of the third cellar, Marco and Dillon poked around calling out for a sign if an entity existed there. For a brief moment, they thought they saw a shadow rise up and melt into a nearby wall. When they found nothing, they could only hope the cameras and EVP recorders picked up something.

On stage, Donna and Tremaine pulled back the curtains separating them from backstage. Out scurried something underfoot. Donna gasped and drew back in fear. Tremaine grabbed the flashlight from her and flashed it across the floor. The light revealed a rather large rat making haste to the end of the stage, before leaping out into the empty audience seats.

“Crap! That scared the daylights out of me,” huffed a disappointed Donna. Her partner chuckled and she playfully slapped him on the arm.

“You would have screamed too if you’d seen it skittering first,” she laughed, while playfully defending herself.

“You’re right. It’s just the look on your face,” started Tremaine, as he watched her expression morph from amused to terrified. “What’s wrong? Donnie, what’s wrong? You don’t look so good.” The young woman froze and could say nothing.

He followed her gaze, then without a word, both Donna and Tremaine lost composure and screamed like two frightened old ladies.

In the shadows of the darkened stage, the figure of a darkly clad man stood with a flowing cape and hat pulled down around his visage. With no visible features, the eerie glint of angry embers flickered like those of a nocturnal feline.
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PostSubject: Re: HEART OF MIDNIGHT (SEQUEL TO DISCOVERING A LEGEND)   Sat Mar 07, 2009 11:28 am

If I've got readers no one is posting. It's really not a bad sequel.

Thank you for reading, but please post your comments.

Here is the next chapter. Please R&R. Enjoy!

*****************************************
CHAPTER 2

BELIEVE NOTHING YOU HEAR AND VERY LITTLE YOU SEE


From box five, Lars and Todd heard blood curdling screams which made them jump with a start and peer over the side. In the partial light from backstage they could only see the silhouettes of Donna and Tremaine, standing stiff as a poker screaming their heads off.

By the time they made it to the lobby, Donna and Tremaine flew out of the theatre and met them screaming in panic. Grabbing the two, the WWPI founders tried to calm them down and find out what happened.

Tremaine mumbled something about a man in black with a cape. Lars thought to make a joke, but the pale face of the shakened man made him think otherwise.

Between hyperventilating and trying to breathe, Donna babbled the same, saying the glowing eyes would burn a hole through them.

Todd radioed Marco and Dillon to see if they saw anything. Other than a shadow rising and disappearing into the wall, they saw nothing. Then he checked with Ray in the manager’s office, but he claimed to see nothing on the monitors.

“On stage, you saw nothing? You’re sure?” Todd furrowed his brow as he stared at the still trembling couple.

“Nothing. Absolutely nothing,” came the radio reply. “I saw Donna and Trey in the semi-darkness. Saw them scrambling off stage. Heard them screaming, but that’s all.”

Lars and Todd both gave the two a questioning look. The frightened investigators refused to return to the stage or even set foot in the theatre.

“We can understand if you can’t go back on stage. We’re good with that, but you should try to control the screaming,” Lars tried to understand. The trembling people just stood with blank stares, determined not to return to the dreaded theatre.

By now, Marco and Dillon entered the lobby where excitement thrived. Lars asked them to go into the theatre and check the two cameras. The one feeding the monitor they would replay later. He felt more concerned for the one in the audience seats and the one on stage.

Before obeying orders, they asked Donna and Tremaine if they were okay. The two nodded. Marco and Dillon then disappeared through the double doors. Seeing their friends and fellow ghost hunters so terrified unnerved them greatly.

Taking the two frightened people aside, Todd and Lars sat them down, hoping to calm them. They expressed their concern, but by the same token, their disappointment from such a novice behavior.

“As paranormal investigators we need to keep our composure and our wits. If you see something, call us or one of the others. We of all people cannot take off in a panic screaming like scared kids,” Todd gently reprimanded.

Finally, Tremaine spoke. “You didn’t see it? It was horrible. All in black with glowing eyes. And the feeling, the feeling that came with it. Horrible! Horrible!” He shook his head and buried his face in his hands.

*********************

Meanwhile, inside the theatre, Dillon looked for the camera in the empty audience seats. As he shuffled down the rows between seats, he stumbled when his foot hit something hard. Shining his flashlight at the floor, he saw the tripod and camera. Carefully he picked them up and began the examination. Still on, the camera seemed to work as it should, so he rewound the tape and replayed it.

Nothing.

The camera recorded everything up to the rat jumping off stage. Then something shook the tripod and down went the camera. With darkness enveloping the floor, the tape picked up nothing more but black void.

At the same time, Marco searched for the camera setup stage right. This he found on the floor as well. Apparently, it had stopped recording just moments before the discovery of the rat and hit the stage. In all the ruckus, Donna and Tremaine didn’t hear it or the other camera fall. What happened?

By now, Lars sent Donna and Tremaine to the third cellar, while he and Todd joined Marco and Dillon on stage. After being told of finding the cameras on the floor and recording nothing, they turned on all the lights to see if they could find a way for the cameras to get knocked over. Could the rat have done this? Only the two scary cats would know which direction the rat ran and jumped. So they chalked it up to the rat knocking over the cameras until they could verify otherwise.

Now with the cameras reset, the men played back the audio. Screams from Donna and Tremaine filled the tape. Until they listened to the EVP’s, they’d have to say they had nothing.

Shaking his head, Lars asked Marco and Dillon to sit in box five while he and Todd took over the watch on stage.

Once again, lights out. The darkened audience seats had a camera rolling and so did stage right. Lars and Todd decided to sit backstage, so that light went out as well. Upon checking the temperature, they found nothing abnormal.

Lars walked around backstage and then on stage calling out to whatever haunted the theatre. “If there’s some one with us, please give us a sign. You showed yourself to our friends. Show yourself to us.”

“If you don’t want to be seen, then touch one of us, or make a noise,” Todd took up the cry for manifestation. Trying to communicate with the spirit is one of the first things investigators do. They want the entity to tell them who they are and what they want. According to popular belief, these earthbound spirits wander because of some unfinished business, caused by sudden or violent death.

Again Todd checked the temperature, but found nothing unusual. Lars radioed Marco to see how he and Dillon fared in box five. As before, they found nothing unusual. There they felt nothing and saw nothing. Therefore the men in box five and backstage settled in their seats for the moment.

*********************

Marco and Dillon checked every corner of the balcony seats, asking if anyone occupied the box with them. This went on for a few minutes without an answer. As Dillon moved backwards, he bumped into a column behind one of the seats. Accidentally, he pushed on it with one hand, and the column swung open. The men couldn’t have been more surprised. Silently, they shined their flashlights inside and found a hidden passage leading downward with spiral steps. Forgetting to radio anybody, they disappeared into the beckoning entrance, while the column swung back into place and closed behind them.

***********

In the manager’s office, deemed command central, Ray sat back munching snacks while watching the monitors. Lars and Todd made sure to switch on all the lights so he could see the panels, dials and meters without any trouble. After all command central should be a safe place. Surely spirits didn’t haunt this room. With particular concern for Donna and Tremaine, he lingered in watching them, hoping they wouldn’t have anymore problems. And so he didn’t see Marco and Dillon enter the mysterious hidden passage behind the hollow column and disappear.

He couldn’t imagine what would scare Donna and Tremaine that badly. Could the power surge before the two started screaming have caused the full body apparition? Or did it just knock out the cameras for a few minutes? The power surge and the flickering/rolling picture from the monitor on stage he neglected to mention. Why? He didn’t know. It felt like somebody or something controlled his actions. It went without saying, Lars and Todd would want have the footage from the monitors reviewed. Would they find anything?

From behind, a black mass formed and moved slowly to the unsuspecting investigator. When he reached for his can of Pepsi, Ray caught a glimpse of the black mass from the corner of his eye. Turning quickly, he leapt from his chair, and drew back instinctively, trying to keep his wits about him.

“Who are you? Can you tell me your name? I’m not here to hurt you,” poor frightened Ray kept backing up. He knew he’d soon touch the wall, and then what?

Generally, a black mass disappeared as fast as it appeared. They don’t usually back a body against the wall. The two-way radio lay on the console right next to the black mass, which now stood stationery. For a moment it hovered as if trying to communicate and then vanished, quickly and quietly.

Ray couldn’t believe what he just saw. Could he blame mass hysteria for his and the others’ experience? Quickly he grabbed the radio and called Lars and Todd. When they answered, he related his experience. Since the office had not been sited as a paranormal hot spot, no equipment had been set up to record. So they instructed Ray to setup a camera and some audio recorders. After he did so, he nervously took his seat at the console. Gingerly he put away his snacks. His appetite had flown with his courage. Of course, he felt exhilarated to witness a paranormal event, but getting cornered by something not alive unnerved him, just a little.

Something about this case didn’t follow the pattern of any others. What type of
haunting did we have in the Paris Opera? So far, no one saw an apparition repeating an action. Neither had they heard any one thing over and over. So this ruled out a residual haunting. So far no one had been attacked by the entity, so this ruled out an inhuman or demonic haunting.

If they found anything on the video or digital recorders to prove something tried to communicate with them this would most definitely come under the heading of an intelligent haunting.

The fear caused by the black mass and full body apparition made Lars and Todd wonder what they really had. What caused the fear in people who made a life’s work of hunting
down restless spirits, disembodied voices, full body apparitions and things that literally go bump in the night? Usually, they all hoped to see or hear something, but not tonight. What made tonight different? Or perhaps the location made the difference. Then they got to thinking. Donna and Tremaine said they say a dark figure with a hat and glowing eyes. Did this have anything to do with the legendary Phantom? Their authority on the subject was Donna, who nearly died of fright. They’d have to question her after a good night’s sleep. Maybe this truly came from the imagination. After all, the Phantom of the Opera only existed in the minds of a turn of the century French author and of late, a renowned British composer, didn’t he? They felt certain the Phantom no more existed than Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny.

********************

In the third cellar, Tremaine moved about with his EMF detector. EMF stood for electromagnetic field. It’s said that ghosts register high in such readings. Spirits use a lot of energy and this should prove another way to measure it. However, a place where a mass of electrical wires exist will cause high readings and give a person the feeling of fear or dread. Another tip, watch for a change in temperature. When a spirit sucks up a lot of energy, it causes the temperature to drop; become colder.

At this moment, all of the above began to happen. EMF readings clicked to an all time high, without any electrical wiring around. The temperature dropped from a pleasant
seventy to a freezing twenty-eight degrees.

Donna and Tremaine moved about rubbing their hands together and swinging their arms trying to get warm. When they spoke, their breath smoked. Donna checked the thermal. The multicolored monitor made images look much like negatives used to make still photos. Any bright orange spot indicated something emitted heat, either flesh and blood, or otherwise. In other words, it registered a heat source. The shape of an upright coffin emitted a bright orange from the far corner of the cellar. Something definitely lived there, lingering in the shadows.

The two exchanged looks. Thoughts of making Donna his girl no longer dwelled in Tremaine’s mind. Surviving the night took priority. This time, he radioed Lars and Todd, relaying the discovery of the coffin-shaped hot spot.

At this, Lars had to crack a joke. “If you find a body wrapped in strips of cloth, treat it with respect as it might be some body’s mummy. Get it? Some body’s mummy,” Then he broke into hysterical, knee-slapping laughter. Todd couldn’t help himself and joined in. Two tried to bring a little levity to the situation to keep the others from getting scared. Donna and Tremaine stood with poker faces. Nothing he said struck them as funny. They faced an unseen, coffin-shaped entity while their leader and friend mocked them and the situation.

Todd realized their fear and in all seriousness cautioned them to take care when investigating. Donna acknowledged. Then she and Tremaine moved toward the hot spot still registering on the thermal.

Dark shadows shrouded the corner where the upright coffin stood. When Tremaine flashed a light over it, what looked like a man dressed in black Victorian opera attire lay with arms crossed over his chest. Oddly enough, a black death’s head covered the face.

Gingerly, Tremaine poked its shoulder. The body felt stiff. For the first time that evening, he laughed and said, “This is not a real body. It’s a dummy.”

“H…how do you know?” stammered a nervous Donna.

“Go on, touch it. It’s stiff and hard. It’s a prop; a dummy prop,” Tremaine continued. Hesitatingly, the young woman poked the shoulder as Tremaine did. A smile spread across her face. She made the same deduction. A dummy lay inside the coffin. These were props, not real, just props for the ballet or from past operas. Who knew how long they’d had been there?

A squeak under foot made Donna, flinch and shine the flashlight toward her feet. A frightened rodent scurried to hide from the humans. This time both Donna and Tremaine laughed out loud. How stupid they felt for allowing their imaginations to run away with them! Training as paranormal investigators prepared them to look for, anticipate and actually pray to see a ghost or witness some manifestation of one. Fear should never rule them. WWIP came to prove or debunk the hauntings. This brought to mind a saying Lars contributed to his mother, “Believe nothing you hear and very little you see”.

Walking away, the two laughed and chatted about the evening’s excitement. Fear would never overcome them again. As they moved farther away from the coffin, Donna radioed Lars and Todd to say they found nothing but a dummy and a rat.

From the coffin shrouded in darkness, an angry glint of gold flickered from empty hollows behind the black death’s head as crossed arms unfolded and the body stepped
from its constricted box.
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PostSubject: Re: HEART OF MIDNIGHT (SEQUEL TO DISCOVERING A LEGEND)   Sat Mar 28, 2009 10:14 am

I guess everybody is too busy to read my little phic. I think it's pretty good. No reviews. How sad.

I shall post the next chapter anyway. Maybe someday someone will post a comment. Due to the length, this chapter will take two consecutive posts.

Please R&R. Enjoy!

********************************************

CHAPTER 3

I’M NOT AFRAID


The first night in the opera house seemed pretty chaotic to say the least. Since Donna’s call from the third cellar said she and Tremaine found nothing but a dummy and rat, all appeared quiet, until Ray at command central called to say he didn’t see Marco and Dillon in box five. His run in with the creepy black mass backing him up against a wall unnerved him enough, as well as the scare Donna and Tremaine had in the theatre, but now this.

“What do you mean you don’t see them? Did they hit the restrooms?” Todd questioned as he and Lars exchanged puzzled looks. None of the group would walk off their post without good reason. All had proven themselves, so having Marco and Dillon go MIA without calling in made even Todd and Lars feel terribly uneasy. Why didn’t they call in? What happened?

“They were here one minute and gone the next. I tried to raise them on the radio, but no answer,” Ray finished his unsettling account. So Lars tried to reach the men on his radio, but got a lot of static instead. At this, they rechecked the cameras stage right and in the audience seats, before telling Ray they’d go up and check box five.

Looking up towards the balcony seats both men called out to Marco and Dillon. Nothing but dead silence answered. A shiver ran through them as they ran for the door.

At stage left, the misty transparent form of a beautiful young woman with sad eyes looked on as the men disappeared into the lobby. Her mournful sobs filled the auditorium and echoed from wall to wall, as she ascended toward the ceiling and vanished.

***************************************
From the walls of the third cellar the distinct sounds of an organ vibrated and engulfed Donna and Tremaine, who had just settled their nerves. For a brief moment, they had the feeling of being watched, but after looking around a second time, they still found nothing out of order. Unfortunately, they did not revisit the upright coffin in the darkened corner where they found what they thought was a dummy. If they had, they would have found it empty.

Tried as they did, they could not pinpoint the location of the organ. At the moment, fear no longer gripped them, only curiosity. The music brought several scary ghost stories came to mind. Actually, this reminded Donna of all the film versions of “The Phantom of the Opera”. Could it be? She and Tremaine exchanged looks. Remember, all investigations of the paranormal occur with the lights out. The only light source came from individual flashlights.

As they talked, unbeknown to them, the angry glint of gold blazed behind some boxes filled with more props.

Donna brought up the subject of the Phantom. Ghostly organ music could come from him. Respecting her belief in the story, Tremaine reminded they came to prove or debunk, so here stood their opportunity. Phantom music, if you’ll pardon the pun, didn’t usually play on and on like this one. Most likely you’d hear a whisper of music, as if you heard it but didn’t. This sound reached crescendos and then softened. No ghost played a real organ. Did they? Unless the Phantom, the Opera Ghost had special privileges.

“Donna, why do you believe the Phantom was real? You seem so obsessed with it,” Tremaine tried to understand as he moved about watching his EMF detector.

“There’s something about the man that feels familiar, like I knew him. He really was misunderstood. Maybe all that’s happening to us is him trying to tell us something,” Donna replied thoughtfully, as she looked over his shoulder to see the EMF readings. “You’re getting spikes. Something is in here with us.” She looked around, this time hoping to see the apparition again.

Without thinking, Tremaine stumbled and fell forward into a nearby wall, when his foot hit the base board. A small opening slid open in the wall near the floor. They couldn’t have been more surprised. When they tried to radio Lars and Todd, they met a lot of static as well.

“You’re not going in there, are you?” Fear welled up in the lovely investigator as Tremaine poked his head into the secret entrance.

“We’re here to investigate, so let’s investigate. We’ll call the others as soon as we get a better frequency. Come on,” he reasoned. “What could happen? There’s nobody here but you, me and the ghost,” he laughed. She laughed, too, and then followed him into the secret opening.

From behind the boxes, something with blazing orbs emerged and followed them into the entrance which closed behind it.

*********************
On the winding path spiraling down from box five into the depths of the ancient edifice, Marco and Dillon made their way toward the haunting sound of an organ filling the passageway. As with the others, the only light source came from their flashlights. To a certain point, the path seemed dry, and smelled musty. The air felt heavy and claustrophobic. Up until now, neither man suffered from being in tight, enclosed spaces. Dillon complained of having difficulty in breathing and wanted to go back. This worried his buddy, who tried to radio anybody, but ended up with a ton of static.

When they turned to go back, the path seemed to branch off in several different directions, something they certainly didn’t see before. On the way down, they walked on a single, claustrophobic path. Now when they tried to turn back, the path had branches? This must be a trick; an illusion. Nothing paranormal did this. Someone set this up, at least the thought crossed Dillon’s mind. Breathing difficulty no longer seemed like a problem, as finding their way out took priority.

The organ continued to play. They moved on, deeper and deeper into the dark recesses of the opera house. Marco had a bad feeling about this. He knew they’d made a mistake coming down here. With all of this background in the occult, he felt sure all they currently experienced resulted from magick and not a haunting.

After what seemed like an eternity, the two men finally found themselves on the shore of the underground lake made famous in the tale and the many versions of The Phantom of the Opera. Here they found several small boats tied to skinny, dark colored posts driven into the ground.

“We’ve been setup. Somebody is playing a joke,” Dillon looked around cautiously, taking in every inch of the damp, dank cave-like look and stench where the journey briefly halted.

“I thought so at first, but part of this is an illusion,” Marco surveyed the area as well, shining his flashlight slowly across slimy walls and moist ground. The lake shimmered with a strange iridescent light from beneath. The walls encompassing the lake, itself, emitted a glow, like phosphorus.

Once again when they looked back, the path branched off in several different directions, contrary to the way it appeared on the way down. Someone or something didn’t want them turning back.

“I don’t like this.” A tremor sounded in Dillon’s voice. “If this is an illusion, who’s playing the organ? Or is that an illusion too?”

“I’m not afraid and you shouldn’t be either. We see things regular folks don’t and we are trained professionals,” Marco stated with dignity and confidence. Then he nodded toward one of the boats. Dillon rebelled, but Marco won.

Both men climbed into the boat. The young Latino untied the boat, and straddled its edge with one foot on shore and the other in the boat. After untying it, he gave a sharp push against the post to launch the small vessel. Then he hopped in and began rowing out across the lake. Contrary to popular belief, he used oars not a pole to maneuver the boat. The organ played on.

Someone or something wanted them down there, wanted them to go toward the organ. But who or what?

****************************
At command central in the manager’s office, Ray frantically radioed Lars and Todd when he saw Donna and Tremaine enter the secret passage from the hole in the wall. Desperately, he tried to raise them on the radio, which gave off the same terrible amount of static.

“Lars, they disappeared into a hole in the wall. I tried calling but all went static,” his voice quavered and his hands shook. By now he could feel the hair rise up on the back of his neck. Something stood behind him.

From the radio, Lars asked what exactly did he see, but no answer came. Ray still had his finger down on the button, so Lars and Todd could hear everything happening in the manager’s office.

“Marco, Dillon, is that you?” he asked turning slowly. A disembodied head floated eye to eye with him. The hair flamed like fire, as it flew straight at the terrified young man.

Screaming and dodging like a child awakening from a bad dream, Ray dropped the radio, slid out the open door, into the hall, and far away from the flaming apparition. The deep roar of maniacal laugher echoed all around, as the terrified investigator disappeared from sight.

From the radio on the floor, Lars screamed for Ray to answer and demanded to know what happened. Over and over he called for Ray and repeated himself. Slowly a bony hand picked up the radio and pressed the transmission button.

“Leave now or die like the others,” said a deep male voice into the radio. “Leave now or die like the others.”

************************
Standing in box five, Lars and Todd looked dumbfounded. Where did Ray go? Who just threatened them?

Fearlessly, Lars shouted into the radio, “Who is this? Where is Ray? Answer me. Ray! Hello?”

Static.

Not good. Nothing had ever happened like this before. Looking over the balcony, Todd got a glimpse of the misty transparent woman, as she vanished. Unfortunately, neither he nor Lars heard her mournful sobs or wailing.

Frantically, he tugged on Lars shirt, but the apparition had disappeared before Lars saw it.


TO BE CONTINED IN THE FOLLOWING POST
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PostSubject: Re: HEART OF MIDNIGHT (SEQUEL TO DISCOVERING A LEGEND)   Sat Mar 28, 2009 10:15 am

CHAPTER 3 CONCLUSION

“Come on, Todd. This is crazy. Everybody is disappearing on us.”

Excitement mounted in the men. “Did you see the woman floating in mid air?” Todd took a deep breath. He could barely contain his feelings.

“No. Sorry I didn’t, but we’ve gotta go now. Something’s happened to Ray.” And with that, the two men fled the box.

From a darkened corner, the misty transparent woman looked on in sadness. A deep, painful moan arose and increased in volume, echoing throughout the empty theatre.

*********************
In the dark lobby of the opera house, Lars and Todd switched on the lights and scowled the area for Ray or anybody before moving on to the manager’s office. They found the lobby empty and desolate.

The manager’s office looked much the same; empty and desolate. Not a sign of Ray anywhere. The two-way radio lay on the floor near the console. All monitors had gone black. The power had been cut off on everything. Todd played back the audio recorder, but only static spoke to them. The camera lay on the floor, like the ones in the theatre. Upon play back, they found nothing. Apparently it had been turned off prior to its trip to the floor.

“Someone is messing with us. Ghosts don’t turn off cameras and power like this,” Lars mumbled as he switched on the power. All the monitors popped on, but they showed no one. Upon play back of the last half hour, they found nothing. It had been shut off just prior to Ray’s call saying Donna and Tremaine had gone MIA.

Sitting at the console, Todd called out to each area in a vain attempt for contact. He tried very hard not to give into fear.

“I’m not afraid and you shouldn’t be either, Todd. We’ve been ghost hunting for a number of years, and all of our investigators are trained professionals.” Lars sat near his friend as they both flipped through the play back and then through the monitors in each area, even the dormitories and hallways.

“Trained or not, I am afraid. I don’t know of any ghost that can do something like this,” Todd checked the digital recorder. “Have you ever read the original story about the Phantom?”

“No. I don’t have time for fairy tales,” Lars started, but Todd cut him off.

“I have. I read it before we left California. The Phantom called himself the Opera Ghost or O.G.. He was pretty illusive and could only be seen if he wanted to.”

Suddenly, he stopped as he came across something in the audio. Looking to Lars, they both drained of color. Upon the second play back, they heard the ominous warning, “Leave now, or die like the others.” The voice sounded deep and eerie; beginning in front of you and then echoing all around. And the laugh, the hideous, maniacal laugh sent a chill through them. A knot grew in pit of their stomachs.

“That’s not even an EVP,” realized Lars. “Give me that.” He moved his buddy out the chair and took over the play back.

“Todd, this is not a ghost. This has to be a trick, but a sick one,” Lars’ voice fell and he swallowed hard. What could be more frightening? Provoking an angry ghost or being stalked by a serial killer?

“I’m not afraid,” Todd mumbled over and over to himself. The silence broke with a chilling blood curdling scream. Lars grabbed him by the collar and they both took off to the lobby.

***********************
In the lobby, crouching by the elaborate winding staircase Ray cowered, trembling like a leaf with a fixed gaze. Finding no one in the room but Ray, the two lead investigators moved the petrified man to a chair and tried to make him tell what he saw.

At the moment he could say nothing. He only sat motionless, with a blank look. Whatever he saw put him in a state of shock. And now, they heard the faint sound of an organ playing. Not from the theatre, but somewhere in or perhaps below the building.

Todd’s lip quivered. “No, no, NO!” Lars raised his voice. “Don’t start with the Phantom. There was never a phantom and there isn’t one now. You’re letting your mind play tricks on you. Someone is yanking our chain. The Phantom never existed!”

Pulling the others onward, Lars herded them toward the back of the building to a side entrance of the theatre. Here, they used to place props used in operas and now ballets when changing scenes.

In the semi-dark of the small entry something moved. They didn’t see it since their minds focused on the organ. The sound seemed to lead them. Spirits didn’t challenge the living like this. Had they discovered the real Phantom? Lars didn’t want to think about it.

Suddenly, he stopped everyone and turned around and around slowly, asking, “Who is here with us? Are you the Opera Ghost?” The organ seemed to get louder.

“Please answer us. We mean you no harm. Are you the Opera Ghost? Are you the Phantom? Give us a sign.” Lars projected his voice loud and clear.

Todd released Ray’s arm for a moment and moved out passed Lars. In the semi-darkness, he thought he saw something move. He mentioned it to his friend. Both squinted and strained to see. Then they both shined their flashlights about.

Nothing.

After killing the flashlights, they move on toward the abyss of darkness, as Todd reached behind him and grabbed Ray’s arm, or so he thought. The three moved on in silence, until they reached a dead end. Flashing the lights about they realized it went nowhere, but still the organ sounded even stronger. Were they standing over it?

From a distance behind, a faint voice called to them.

Ray! But wait! Ray?

Todd’s face morphed into heart pounding terror. The same dawned on Lars. If Ray called to them from a distance, whose arm did Todd hold? Both swallowed hard and mumbled, “I’m not afraid, I’m not afraid,” as they slowly turned around and cast the light on the owner of the arm. Beneath a dark fedora, the empty hollows of a black death’s head stared back at them.
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PostSubject: Re: HEART OF MIDNIGHT (SEQUEL TO DISCOVERING A LEGEND)   Sun Jun 07, 2009 12:56 pm

Too bad I have no comments for this one. It really is a pretty good story.

Here's the next chapter. Due to it's length, this will be posted in two parts. Please R&R. Enjoy!

*****************************
CHAPTER 4

WHAT NIGHTMARES ARE MADE OF PART 1

Roiling mist crept across the eerie iridescent underground lake, as Marco and Dillon rowed closer and closer to the organ music. Distinctively they felt as if eyes followed them. Peering over the edge of the small boat, nothing visual came into view, only the inexplicable blue light from the depths below.

How long they rowed no one could tell. It felt like an eternity. Finally, a twist to the right led them away from two other paths leading to who know where? The song of the organ seemed to take over and pulled them toward a shore where a stone archway stood not far away. From deep in the cavern of the archway, the music flowed and filled the tiny harbor.

The two men docked the boat. Dillon felt extremely uneasy. His entire being flushed hot and tiny beads of perspiration formed on his forehead and streamed down his face. Marco noticed. This worried him, but at the moment, he could do nothing except give words of encouragement and calm. Something affected his buddy more than he. Did the organ have that kind of power?

Cautiously, the men moved toward the stone archway. Curious picture graphs carved into the arch made the men stop and examine them carefully. Dillon had some knowledge of ancient writings. They did not look like Egyptian hieroglyphics or Greek. The pictures look more like odd shapes. His Latin buddy called them runes, explaining that deep magick had its own language and alphabet. Runes, hewn into stone, but for what reason? To keep something in or out?

Passing under the arch made both men shudder. Something changed when they took this path. The music played on as they entered a great courtyard with several branches. This must have been where they kept prisoners during the Franco-Prussian war. The musty stench of decay filled their nostrils and made them gag and cough.

Again Dillon began to have that fearful heaviness fall upon him. The old heart pounded in panic and he tried hard to catch his breath. Marco grabbed his faltering buddy. They had come this far; no use turning back now. Marco urged him onward.

As they walked, a number of cells popped up. Tiny, decrepit holes in the wall with bars. No beds or mattress present. By now the organ grew louder and louder. Dissonant, minor cords added to the creepy, unholy ambience.

A massive chamber hewn in stone stood at the end of the passage. The double oak doors appeared well kept and clean compared to its surroundings. One door creaked open a bit wider. They saw no visible being at the entrance. As they drew closer, the door creaked louder and opened wider. Hesitantly, they continued to follow the mournful tone of the music through the now open door.

There they found themselves in a small entry way into what appeared like a stone house. With only one level, the place looked immaculately clean and filled with odds and ends of furniture, paintings and what looked like stray props. A number of figurines or small statuettes graced the tables and mantle over the fireplace. Most of them displayed scenes from a Greek tragedy or an Egyptian myth.

Following the music, the men discovered a rather roomy sitting room filled with more mismatched furniture and a good sized organ. The organist had his back to them. Shrouded all in black, with a matching cloak across his shoulders, the man played with such expression and fervor, they knew exactly when his emotions changed.

Abruptly the music stopped. The two investigators exchanged puzzled looks. Should they back out and run like anything while they had the chance or should one of them be stupid enough to tap the fellow on the shoulder? Could this possibly be the infamous Opera Ghost Donna always talked about? Wouldn’t he be long since dead by now?

From the look of the organist, now rummaging through some
sheet music, he didn’t look like a ghost. Too solid and corporeal.

“Are you just going to stand there gawking or will you say
something?” The man in black finally spoke; his back still to them. The voice sounded deep and resonant; almost
peaceful, with only a hint of a French accent.

“I don’t receive many visitors,” he arose and moved from around the bench. As he passed, they smelled the distinct odor of medicine and illness; much like a hospital or doctor’s office.

Both Marco and Dillon stood at around six feet, but this man
had at least five or six inches on them. From the countless conversations with Donna about the Phantom, this cloaked figure fit the description. He wore a dark fedora pulled down around his face which lay beneath a black death’s head. In the dimness of the lamps the hollows of the mask looked empty, except for an occasional glint like the eyes of a nocturnal feline.

At the moment, Dillon not only felt the strange heaviness,
and intense-enough-to-make-you-sweat heat, but all thoughts of investigating the paranormal flew out the proverbial window.

What stood before them could be an eccentric actor or just a
homeless making use of things left behind. He wanted to believe that, but the countenance and demeanor of the person made him think otherwise.

“Dillon Troy, aren’t you going to ask who I am and why I live here? This would add to your vast knowledge and expertise of cultural traditions, myths and monsters,” the host moved passed the men and motioned for them to follow.

Surprised he knew their names, the two again exchanged looks and both shrugged in unison. Marco had no fear; only curiosity.

After leading to the sofa he offered them a seat, while he
moved to a cabinet in the corner where he kept his liqueurs and aperitifs. Again this came at a surprise. How would a recluse or homeless acquire such a collection of expensive spirits?

Marco cleared his throat and said, “We apologize for barging
in on you. It’s just the music was so beautiful and hypnotic…” his voice trailed as their host carried a tray of assorted spirits and some glasses and set it on the small table before them. Then he sat in a strange looking overstuffed chair which had the claws of a lion for its feet and arms.

For a moment he explained which bottle contain what type of
liqueur and allowed them to choose their drink. Then he poured each a glass and then one for himself.

Sipping the liquor, Marco nodded his approval and then said,
“You have us at a disadvantage. You know our names and we don’t know yours.”

Ignoring the hint put to him; their host sat back with drink in hand and replied, “Why don’t you ask what you really want to know? You want to know how I know your names and why I live here, deep in the bowels of the opera house. Oh, yes, yes, they no longer refer to this glorious edifice as the opera house. I believe they call it the Paris Opera. Ah, such changes.” In order to drink, the man had to tilt his head back, scoot the mask up a little and pour the drink into his mouth. From what they could see, his jaw and mouth displayed a discolored yellowish skin stretched over bone. Almost like a living skull. This time, even Marco shuddered. The whole feel of the place began to frighten even him.

Spirits generally haunted in an effort to complete unfinished business, seek to reveal a hidden truth, or as in residual
hauntings, it repeats an action over and over without acknowledging the living. However, this talking, corporeal being sitting and drinking with them felt unpredictable and without
precedence. Would he kill them? Or just talk them to death?

“I know the name of everyone in the opera house. Truly there is no need to look for ghosts; they are here, many of them. No need to ask them to leave, they will simply ignore you. This place holds much sadness and loss. Many have died in these cells. Many have died in the levels above.”

“We mean no harm…” Marco began again, but their dark host
sat his glass down and stared at them with empty hollows. The young investigator tried not to shudder, but emotions ran high and his lip quivered and hands shook.

“You address me as you would a beastly spirit. You mean me no harm. Ha! Following my music led you here, I know, but why did you care? What did you expect to find at the end of
the song? Are you aware that ghosts don’t play music? They allow you to hear a residue of an act long since past but they do not play music.” He paused and studied his unwelcome
guests.

After explaining the use of the cells in the Franco-Prussian war and later the fight against the Communards, their dark host expressed his love of the deathly quiet and desolation of the old prison. Then he continued.

“To answer your other question Marco Cortez, you may call me Erik. Some refer to me as the Opera Ghost. You have heard of me from Donna, your lovely fellow investigator. I am he who most people know as the Phantom of the Opera.”

Dillon’s jaw dropped and Marco’s eyes grew big as saucers as
the laughter of a madman filled the room and encompassed their entire being.

**********************************************
Winding around in a dark, smelly passageway made Tremaine
wonder if Donna could be right about the validity of Leroux’s novel. The old opera house held a dozen or more underground tunnels leading to who knows where? The premise of the story took place in such a scenario. Every twist and turn made them feel claustrophobic and fearful.

At the mere mention of turning back, Donna slipped into a sudden opening and disappeared from sight. Hysterically screaming her name, Tremaine shined his flashlight into the
gaping hole.

A trapdoor.

What triggered its opening? From a distance, he faintly heard Donna’s voice. At least she could answer. This proved she yet lived. Thank God!

From behind, Tremaine heard the swish and rustle of material
moving swiftly. Looking back, what appeared like two angry blazing coals met his gaze. Terror seized his heart and gave him no choice but to follow Donna through the open trapdoor.

Down, down, down, he tumbled into the empty void of darkness. It felt as if his back side slid over a bumpy, rocky slide.

Whoosh! Suddenly the young man found himself in a strange
octagonal room filled with six full-length mirrors mounted on rotating axis. A peculiar metal tree stood nearby with a disheveled, disgruntled Donna trying to push herself up favoring her right arm. It may have been injured in her fall through the trapdoor.


CONCLUED IN THE FOLLOWING POST
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PostSubject: Re: HEART OF MIDNIGHT (SEQUEL TO DISCOVERING A LEGEND)   Sun Jun 07, 2009 1:17 pm

CHAPTER 4

WHAT NIGHTMARES ARE MADE OF-CONCLUSION

Helping her up, Tremaine examined the injured limb.

Broken! Not a good thing!

Looking around for a sturdy stick or piece of wood to make a splint for the arm, Tremaine made her sit on the floor near the mental tree. Nothing looked real in the weird room. He couldn’t find anything to use as a splint.

“Torture chamber,” muttered Donna, trying not to pass out
from the pain.

“What?” he asked, as he now searched for a door, a way out.


She winced a couple of times and then said, “We’re in the Phantom’s torture chamber. Need to get out…”

“We’re not going anywhere unless we find a door. Keep your arm immobile. Try not to let it move at all.”

After a few minutes they felt unnaturally hot with the intensity increasing steadily by the minute. The heat came so sudden it seemed to drain the moisture from their bodies causing an insatiable thirst to overshadow them.

The pain from Donna’s arm added to the hallucinations brought on by the heat. The whole room seemed to glow and reflect the most beautiful, yet deadly light known to mankind. The mirrors moved on their axis magnifying the strength of the burning, drying heat. Breathing became laborious within an
atmosphere so heavy with unseen flames sucking the life out of them.

Like in a desert, mirage after mirage popped up before them
only to fade when they reached out. First a stream of water tumbled over rocks and rills came into view. Then a cool jungle with a gorgeous lake took over the scene. But just when they thought they could touch it, feel it…poof…it vanished.

Gone!

Water!

Nothing seemed more important or satisfying than to drinking
a tall glass of sweet, cold water. Their throats and mouths grew parched and felt like cotton multiplying within. Dry, cracked lips formed inaudible words as they crawled about in a desperate, but futile attempt to escape or find water.

The last words which passed from Donna’s cracked lips sounded like, “Nail. Find nail.” Then she passed out from the pain in her arm and the relentless heat.

In a moment, Tremaine joined her as he too passed out. There on the sizzling floor amid the glow and reflection of a fiercely hot light, two lifeless bodies lay quiet and motionless, as the echo of maniacal laughter filled the chamber.

*******************************************

In the small lobby leading to nowhere, Lars and Todd stood
shivering in their shoes as they stared into the empty sockets of the death’s head. The dark of the area with only flashlights shining on the creature caused the men to jump back with a start.

The man in the death’s head spoke not a word, but quickly
reached into his inside coat pocket and whipped out a strange looking piece of string…no, not string. It looked thicker than that. More like a lasso baring a sickening yellow color.

For an instant Todd literally saw his entire life flash before his eyes, when he recognized the weapon since he had recently read the famed Leroux’s famed novel.

The Punjab Lasso!

Grabbing Lars by the wrist, he pulled him back the way they
came, screaming, “Put your hand up. By your eyes. Hold your hand at the level of your eyes!” Both men held their free hands up by their eyes and tore out down the pitch black corridor.

Without looking behind, the two men ran like the devil himself chased them; perhaps more truth lay in that statement than not.

Ray saw them coming toward him like two scared kids. Faces
blanched white, teeth chattering and eyes big as moons. Without a word, they grabbed and herded him into the well lit main lobby. Running through like made they headed straight for command central, the manager’s office.

Once inside, Lars slammed and locked the door behind them. All monitors had power and seemed to operate as normal. Todd hung his head and leaned back against a nearby wall panting, trying to catch his breath.

Now audible and alert, Ray stared in wonderment at the two
lead investigators. He recalled a man in a mask and cape hovering over him, but nothing else, until he found himself
alone in the dark side of the building where they used to keep props and scenery during scene changes.

Lars leaned back against the door panting as his eyes searched the monitors. Quickly he slid into the chair in front of the console and checked all the dials and settings. Box five still looked empty as did the third cellar. Nothing seemed to happen in or around the dormitories.

However the stage looked fairly active as the misty, transparent woman floated from one end to the other, moaning and wailing for someone she called her angel.

The security cameras had been left on and their monitors played on the adjoining table. Ray noticed the one in the corridor just outside the door of the manager’s office. This time, a deathly pallor washed over him as he pointed with a shaky finger, mouthing unheard words. Todd noticed the way he acted and called out to Lars. Both men moved to the monitor. The thing wearing a mask and cape now moved like a cat stalking its prey as it advanced down the hall toward the office where they stood.

NO, NO, NO!

This couldn’t be a ghost. Todd felt it, solid, stiff and hard.

Zombie?

No. Zombies didn’t exist. But wait! Isn’t that what Lars said about the Phantom? Their minds swirled with panic.

Lars refused to allow fear to overcome him. Quickly he picked up the telephone, the land line, and dialed the operator. The
phone rang and rang, then gave way to static as did all other forms of communication.

Ray started prattling about being torn to pieces while Todd
corrected saying the Punjab Lasso would only strangle you to death or snap your neck. Not very comforting.

“Stop it!” interrupted Lars. “This is no ghost. It’s a man. A very smart serial killer. All the land lines and cell phone have static. He’s blocked all communication. There are three of us and one of him. This maniac is banking we’re too scared to fight.”

“That’s the Phantom, Lars. The real Phantom. He’s got his
lasso. We can’t fight a phantom,” Todd babbled like a fool. All his training had come to naught. Here we saw nothing but a frightened teen afraid Jason from “Friday the 13th” or Michael Myers from “Halloween” would hack him into tiny pieces.

Heavy footsteps herald their impending doom. Quietly it stood on the other side of the door; waiting, listening. If a man indeed stalked them, they had a good chance of overpowering and rendering him helpless. But then again, man or not, they could all end of statistics on the six o’clock news or whenever news came on in Paris.

A rattling door knob caught their attention. Something grunted and banged against the door. They had to keep their wits about them and bring it down. Watch the hands and disarm the thing.

Amid the banging against the door, Lars looked around for
something heavy to hit the thing with. A chair should do the trick.

Seeing the quick thinking and calmness of their leader and
friend, the other two killed the lights with the plan of tripping the fiend, making sure he stayed down, while Lars pummeled it with the chair.

In mere moments the door popped open in splinters. The ominous silhouette of an extremely tall man in a cape and hat filled the doorway. Once again blazing orbs like dying embers searched the darkness for humans.

From across the room, Lars screamed out insults and mockery to antagonize the creature into moving forward inside the room.

In fury it growled and quickly moved in, but promptly tripped over Todd laying prostate on the floor. As soon as the thing hit the ground with loud thud, Lars slammed the chair down on its head repeatedly, until they heard a crack, pop and sparks flew.

Flipping on the light, the wound at the back of the head revealed a network of electrical wires still crackling and popping. The head itself felt like a mix of metal and fabricated skin. Man made skin. Latex maybe?

The three men exchanged puzzled looks. Obviously no spirit or human attacked them but rather a machine. What did this mean? The Phantom of the Opera was really a robot?
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PostSubject: Re: HEART OF MIDNIGHT (SEQUEL TO DISCOVERING A LEGEND)   Sun Jul 12, 2009 11:05 am

CHAPTER 5

THE OTHER SIDE OF TERROR

A nightmare of chills and creeps slowly came to an end as Erik, aka The Phantom of the Opera stopped torturing Marco and Dillon with his madman’s laugh. Very little brought him pleasure or amusement nowadays. Living so far beneath the Paris Opera kept him as a recluse and just as insane as the day he lost the woman he loved.

Dwelling within the old prison confines opposite from where he used to live in the late 1800’s, made days and nights all bleed together since it existed below the opera house as well.

The hours between midnight and dawn the Phantom referred to as the ‘heart of midnight’; a time when evil stalked, magick ruled and monsters became reality.

Since the ‘heart of midnight’ swiftly moved to a close, Erik agreed to release the men if they’d return with Donna Anders, their fellow investigator. To this they readily agreed just to get out the weird stone house.

Whether or not they believed they kept company with the Opera Ghost or not didn’t matter. They wanted out. That weird, heavy feeling returned to Dillon, pressing down on him hard. Marco glanced at his EVP recorder. It told him nothing. The readings seemed normal. Could the man called Erik be alive? If the true Phantom indeed sat before them in the flesh, then he had to be more than a hundred and fifty years old.
Impossible! However, he’d hear no protest from them.

Like a gracious host, Erik saw them to the door, but warned them to hurry across the water where his old lakeside house stood. According to him, their friends had fallen into the old torture chamber by accident and set off an alarm which sealed their doom. After describing how to find the Louis-Philippe bedroom, he handed them a key and instructed them to use it to open the door they’d find.

“Make sure to prop open the door. Should it close behind you, not even I can open it. Go quickly, lest they perish!” commanded the dark host. The urgency in his voice sent chills through the men.

With that he handed Marco a talisman, a bag filled with items used as a magickal protection, which smelled much like roses. Tied with a black velvet ribbon, he placed it around the man’s neck.

“This will protect you in your rescue. The ‘heart of midnight’ brings many distractions. Do not take it off. Once you’ve entered my abode, they will find you should you remove it,” Erik warned.

“What about me?” Dillon asked with a worried frown.

“Stay close to your friend. It’s me they really want, not you,” finished Erik as he ushered them out the door. The last statement sent questions to their minds, but they didn’t have much time.

He hadn’t really explained the horrors of the torture chamber, but they caught the drift. The distance from the Communard prisons to where the old lair existed took no more then fifteen minutes to row.

***************************

Marco and Dillon found everything as described. The old lakeside house looked abandoned for decades. Like in other areas, the surrounding walls emitted a soft glow like phosphorus. What used to be a portcullis now stood as a broken wall. Nothing remained inside the house, except a couple of broken chairs and loads of musty smells and scared rats scurrying away to hide.

For a moment the two wondered why Erik moved, if he had indeed lived here at all. The Louis-Philippe bedroom lay in ruin like the rest of the house, but they found footprints in the dust larger then their own all over the place. Pushing the puzzle from their minds they focused on rescuing their friends.

Upon opening the door, the saw the two motionless bodies of
Donna and Tremaine lying on the floor as they baked in the intense heat reflected from the mirrors.

Looking around in a panic, they found nothing to prop open the door, so Dillon opted to hold it open while Marco drug out the bodies one by one.

Quickly, the young Latin scooped up Donna, who rallied slowly. Dillon urged him to hurry. Looking back into the deserted house, a shadow moved menacingly and quiet. If Erik hadn’t instructed then to make haste in rescuing their colleagues, he could have sworn the shadow belonged to him, the Phantom. Certainly, he couldn’t be in two places at once. Not even a ghost can do that.

“Nail,” whispered the half-conscious woman. “Find nail to trapdoor…” then she passed out. Even with the door open, it felt like an oven; a stifling, suffocating oven.

Quickly, Marco carried her to Dillon, who wrapped his arms
around her immediately. He mentioned the stalking shadow as his buddy went back for Tremaine. The unconscious woman almost felt like dead weight as he shifted her in his arms. That’s when he saw the glint from the corner of his eyes.

The bedroom appeared quite spacious, even in the semi-darkness. Something crept upon them. Only the sight
of two blazing orbs shone in the shadows. Dillon couldn’t help but scream.

“Hurry up! We’ve got company!” he screamed to Marco.

The young Latin half dragged, half carried Tremaine. A horrible, sinking feeling hit the pit of his stomach as the door slammed shut, just as he got to it. Now he was trapped! Confusion clouded his mind. Why would Dillon shut him in knowing he couldn’t get out?

Screaming as loud as he could, Marco released Tremaine to
slide back to the floor while he pounded and kicked the door. The heat quickly made him perspire and gave his mouth that dry, cotton-like feeling. He tried to breath, but the intense heat felt suffocating and he had to loosen his collar.

The walls felt like a lit burner on a range top. A faint sound of movement and screams drifted through the door.

Dillon!

Again and again came the screams, followed by a loud crash. Then everything suddenly went eerily quiet.

By now, Marco lay on the floor near the metal tree, wanting
to die. Had the Punjab lasso hung on the tree as it did by tradition, he would have ended it all right there and then.

For a moment, he lay on the floor, begging to die, wishing
to die. No thoughts of prayers or God ever entered his mind. To him, you made life or death the way it came to you. A
higher being never entered the picture. Being an agnostic made believing in the occult much easier.

As he moved his hand across the hot floor, something scraped
it. At first he paid no attention. He had begun to see mirage after mirage, but then his hand scraped across it again. This time he looked. A dark, protruding object beckoned to him. Then Donna’s words made sense.

Nail! Find the nail!

With all his strength he rolled over and pushed on the nail. It set in an awkward position, but could still be acted upon, so he pushed and pushed. Finally, he touched it just right and the
trapdoor popped open. Cool air rushed up and hit him square in the face. He had to have more.

Remembering Tremaine, he crawled to him and slowly,
painstakingly drug his colleague down into the trapdoor.

The cool air quickly perked him up and Tremaine began to
rally. The dark coolness of the cellarbeneath the cellar gave such relief.

Flicking on his flashlight, Marco saw several rows of barrels. As he flashed the light around the room, he spied another trapdoor; possibly a way out. Then he discovered another one opposite the first. Which one should he choose?

In the quiet of the dark cellar, he heard the door from the
Louis-Philippe bedroom creak open softly. Had Dillon return to save them? Did he beat up something and win? Or did something beat him and return for his and Tremaine’s bodies? He couldn’t be sure, so quickly he placed a shaky hand over his
buddy’s mouth.

The trapdoor remained open. Not once had he thought to close it behind him. He didn’t think he had to until now as something silently moved across the floor. In a moment, a shadow hovered over the opening, blocking out the terrible light.

************************************************

Lars tossed away the broken chair as Todd and Ray reexamined the motionless, mechanical Phantom, lying on the floor of the manager’s office. They couldn’t imagine what had just happened. Who would create, let alone, send a mechanical thing after them? Renaud Auberjeanois the manager had called
them asking for help. So he couldn’t have done this. Nothing made sense.

Automatas or automatons!

“What?” Lars glared at Todd in unbelief. “What are you talking about?”

“According to Gaston Leroux, the Phantom made automatas or automatons, you know?” Todd tried to make a point, but Lars didn’t get it.

“No I don’t know. Enlighten me,” Lars crossed his arms.

“Automatas or automatons are ancient wind-up toys. Generally you use a key to wind the spring real tight and then the toy will move, make sound, or whatever; act on its own,” Todd began to see the light, but his friend still drifted in fog.

From the expression on Lars’ face, he knew he didn’t get it,
so Todd proceeded to explain that this mechanical thing could possibly be the creation of the Phantom to protect himself; to protect his home.

To Ray it made perfect sense. Knowing what they dealt with and had presently incapacitated it, Ray no longer felt afraid. Lars couldn’t buy in to the existence or reality of the Phantom. Too often people allow their imaginations to run away with them. A myth or legend gets stuck in someone’s head and suddenly they see it. To them it’s real.

WWPI dealt with scared, unlearned people who made the
inexplicable something one should avoid. Panic drives away common sense. Whatever created the mechanical creature was alive and kicking; not a legendary phantom who would be more than a hundred and fifty years old if he yet lived. At least Lars reasoned this way.

Rolling the broken mechanical thing aside, the three continued trying to make contact with the others. The monitors showed nothing but the misty transparent woman on stage moaning and wailing. Generally ghosts are not so helpful as to allow themselves to be photographed and recorded. What did this one want? Turning up the sound from the stage, the mournful wailing filled the office and sent chills up and down their spines.
They didn’t need an EVP recorder for this one.

Todd turned to leave the office and back to the stage, when
Donna staggered in, favoring her right side and collapsed in his arms. He carried her to the nearby sofa, while Ray handed him a bottle of water.

“He’ll kill…them…” her voice trailed off in a raspy whisper. Visions of shadows with blazing eyes filled her terrified mind.
“He will kill them…” Todd made her drink water. The men noticed her cracked lips and how her once white skin had darkened; almost black. In checking her right arm, she winced; Ray then knew it was broken. He placed a cool, wet cloth on her forehead. So many questions came to mind, but the men could see Donna was in no shape to answer.

By now, Lars strained to keep composure as his face drained
of color. From another monitor he could see Dillon pulling Tremaine and Marco through a trapdoor from a wall in the
third cellar. As they hit the stairs, a huge, black-winged shadow blocked the visual.

“Take Donna to the dorms. Barricade yourselves in the one of the bedrooms. If there’s another mechanical thing like the one we pummeled, then do what we did here. Kill the lights, trip the thing and hit it at the base of the skull with all you got! Hurry! Get out now! It’s chasing Dillon and the others up from the third cellar,” their leader never sound more serious then now.
A slight tremor laced his words.

Without hesitation, Todd gathered up the half conscious
woman and scurried out the splintered doorway with Ray doing a slow burn.

Lars never liked guns or weapons, but times like this called
for extreme measures.

Quickly, he fished around in his backpack lying in the
corner and pulled out a flare gun.

Whatever hunted his people could be stopped like the first
one. Ghosts didn’t act like this. Certainly he wondered who created these mechanical things, but he couldn’t think about this now.

With only one flare gun, he’d have to make the first shot
count. In half a panic, the lead investigator took off like a bat out of hell. Down the corridor, through the grand foyer and to straight to the backof the immense half lit edifice he raced.
The faint sound of an organ floated through the air like a spectral shade seeking eternal rest.

The noise of something scrounging and scraping pierced the
door leading to the third cellar. He could hear the approaching voices and panting of his men when they burst through the door with the same Phantom-like creature hot on their tail.

The music stopped abruptly!

Dillon and Marco half dragged, half pulled the semi-conscious
Tremaine into the entry way. Lars pushed them passed him and screamed for them to hurry. In the doorway, a huge shadow hovered. Once again, the unnerving blaze of unholy eyes burned through his very soul. The thing snarled and for all intents and purposes, it felt as though they faced the devil from hell.

Holding the fare gun with both hands, Lars tried to steady
his shaking body. At the moment, he stood close enough not to miss, but close enough to have his head snapped off. He struggled for breath and to calm the knot in his stomach. Never once had he ever dreamt he’d die defending his team. Never once had he ever thought he’d come face to face with Satan himself.

At the flick of its wrist, the Phantom-thing whipped out the
deadly Punjab lasso. The skinny, yellowish thing dangled carelessly from its bony fingers. Lars didn’t know what it was, but the others had a faint idea. It would kill them all. If they didn’t strangle to death, he’d snap their necks like a twig.
Again it snarled. It smelled the fear and warm blood coursing through their veins.

As they backed up, the shadow moved toward them, its blazing glare never left their faces. It demanded to watch the final light of life fade from their eyes. It reveled in anticipation of their deaths.

Dawn!

Majestic beams of sunlight stole its way over the horizon
like a fine gentleman caller making a journey to visit his lady. The windows of the Paris Opera grew increasingly bright as night gave way to daybreak.

As soon as the first beams of sun hit the floor in front of Lars, the shadow retreated back into the darkness and vanished into the doorway, and down to the cellars below.

The men stood alone in the entry way as sunlight rapidly filled the building. Why didn’t the thing attack? Did the sun scare it away?

Unbeknown to them, unseen eyes watched their every move.

The men exchanged puzzled, worried looks. Another night like this would kill them all. No one cared to revisit the other side of terror.
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PostSubject: Re: HEART OF MIDNIGHT (SEQUEL TO DISCOVERING A LEGEND)   Sat Aug 08, 2009 1:18 pm

I hope someone finds time to R&R. I will have to post in two parts. Enjoy!

********************************************

HEART OF MIDNIGHT

CHAPTER 6

TALKING TO THE DEAD



Donna slept for the longest and so did Tremaine. Ray and Dillon caught a few hours, but this morning’s ordeal just would not go away. After all they experienced, Marco rested comfortably, except for the plague of visions or dreams of some impending doom which steadily pproached. What, he couldn’t say. Lars and Todd gathered all the film from the cameras and inserted fresh ones. Nothing could relax them enough to sleep. They set up everything to continually record with fresh disks so they could listen and evaluate all they had recorded on the thermal, digital recording and high def.

By noon, they had gone through all the prospective evidence and came up with virtually nothing. The wailing woman on stage, though visible on monitors, did not record. All footage from the stage, even the individual ones stage right and in the empty audience seats revealed nothing but pure static.

They found no EVP’s but the thermal which Donna and Tremaine recorded in the third cellar clearly showed a heat source from the open coffin in the dark corner.

Renaud Auberjeanois, the manager, strolled into the remains of his office with a look of horror and dismay on his ruggedly handsome face. The mere sight of the inanimate Phantom-thing sent a cold shiver through his thin body and his
face paled. Naturally, he called the police commission and had them remove the mechanical monstrosity. And they would do nothing more than that. The personal, unrecorded experiences of the brave paranormal investigators proved to the gendarmes and the police commission that the living should leave the dead alone. What happened to them the police called a bad omen, the foreshadowing of forthcoming evil.

Renaud had often heard the organ play, but never had the nerve to investigate. And now the gendarmes refused to. Lars and his team stood alone in their research and this did not feel comforting.

The team had a week to investigate, since the ballet troupe still feared to rehearse in the auditorium and a number of locals seemed to share mutual feelings. The Paris Opera would be officially closed for a week.

When Renaud left, Lars flopped down at the console, or actually the manger’s desk where all the monitors set. As he swiveled the chair around, his leg bumped one of the drawers which popped out. A note scrawled in red ink caught his eye. Todd walked in at the same time.

This made Todd shudder as he exclaimed, “The Phantom’s note!”

Lars picked it up and glanced over it. “It’s signed, O.G.,” he remarked.

“Who’s…?”

“Opera Ghost!” the two exclaimed in unison. Lars refused to believe and Todd refused not to.

***********************
After tossing and turning for sometime, Marco had to get up. The runes hewn into the archway above the entrance to the Communard prison kept haunting him. He’d seen them before. So he moved to his backpack and rummaged around inside
it until he found a rather thick, aged book.

The ancient tome contained the runes’ alphabet and the meanings for the ancient symbols. The ones over the archway evoked a protection spell, working in conjunction with the smelly talisman Erik placed around his neck. He found that in the book as well.

Suddenly he realized the Phantom-thing which stalked them had to be of Erik’s creation as was the one Lars immobilized. What the ballet troupe and manager saw had to have been one of the same. The protection spell had no affect on such. Therefore something else haunted the fifth cellar; something gunning for the Phantom. The protection guarded against this unseen entity.

Taking the book downstairs, Marco joined Lars and Todd in the remains of the manager’s office. When he related his findings and deduction, they had to agree. Something else dwelled in the fifth cellar other than a man called Erik and it wanted him. What had they gotten into? Another passage of the book told
of certain creatures which roamed during the ‘heart of midnight’ as Erik explained. Only he neglected to mention whatever haunted that period of time actually hunted for the soul of one twice cursed of God. One who walked the earth in shame of what he’d done and what he he’d become. Erik said these denizens sought him. Then he’d have to be the one twice cursed of God, wouldn’t he?

**********************************
Around five in the afternoon, Donna finally woke up and stared about her in the stark white bedroom. The drawn curtains blocked out what remained of daylight. All the scary, near death experiences from that morning seemed fuzzy. Were they real or merely a dream? As she tried to stretch the cast on her arm confirmed the reality; she had not dreamt. Looking about her, she couldn’t believe anything that horrible and weird could actually happen.

Lazily she sat on the edge of the bed and tried to stretch again before shuffling into the bathroom. Everything she had to do with her good arm/hand. After washing her face in the running water she grabbed a towel and happened to glance in the mirror where she caught a glimpse of something peaking at her, as if a shadow from a hidden doorway. She jerked around, but found no one behind her. Did a shadow lurk in the mirror? Maybe light reflecting from an angle? Shaking her head, she did a double take.

Nothing.

Perhaps she only suffered from a bad case of the jitters and a broken arm. A nice meal should take care of at least most of that.

Downstairs, the young blonde sashayed into the grand dining hall used for banquets and galas after a magnificent ballet. Todd pulled out a chair for her. As she sat, she asked what actually happened. Tremaine looked better, but had his hands bandaged from the burns caused by a scorching floor.

Fortunately, Donna didn’t get her skin burned since her long sleeved blouse protected her. Both their faces looked red as a lobster and felt tender to the touch like a sunburn. Even their dry, cracked lips began to plump up and moisten.

The upshot of the night’s investigation presented a number of terrifying personal experiences, none of which they caught on tape or digital recording. The equipment checked out fine. Nothing malfunctioned. Then who or what knocked down some of the cameras and caused such intense static?

Then the runes found carved into a stone archway protecting a man called Erik, who hides away in the ruins of the prison confines and plays creepy organ music at the bewitching hour. Unless the alleged creatures hunting for him during the ‘heart of midnight’ turned out to be spirits, it seemed they’d only encountered a Looney Tune who liked dressing Goth and playing pranks for amusement. No one found humor in this. And the mechanical Phantoms or Phanbots as Lars called
them had to be created by flesh and blood, not ghosts.

Ray and Dillon wanted to call it quits. Even Tremaine wanted to throw in the towel. Nothing he knew of could affect all their equipment like it did, unless someone alive used something to knock out everything.

No one understood what twice cursed of God meant. Lars and Todd found not only one, but several notes in the manager’s desk. All had messages scrawled in red ink. Of course, Todd and Donna agreed the MO looked like that of the Phantom.
Lars scoffed. Ray and Dillon puzzled.

Todd had gone to the National Archives earlier and discovered an old journal belonging to Gaston Leroux telling how he gathered information in “discovering a legend”. It seemed Leroux had met and had lengthy discussions with the Phantom and Christine.

One thing particularly interesting in the account explained a cursed placed upon the Phantom by the king of a band of gypsies. Leroux said this made Erik twice cursed of God, doomed to wander the earth forever with the same hideous
looks which haunted him from birth. Like a restless spirit, the Opera Ghost could not die or ever find peace. Forever he’d live in darkness, shame, and damnation for killing the gypsy king’s son. Only God could remove such a curse.


TO BE CONTINUED
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PostSubject: Re: HEART OF MIDNIGHT (SEQUEL TO DISCOVERING A LEGEND)   Sat Aug 08, 2009 1:29 pm


HEART OF MIDNIGHT

CHAPTER 6

TALKING TO THE DEAD CONCLUSION


Lars refused to believe in superstition, especially what he called the Flying Dutchman curse. Sea lore told of a man called the Flying Dutchman who wandered the earth on a ghost ship manned by a doomed crew. Some say anyone seeing the ship became marked for certain death.

Familiar with myths and legends, Ray and Dillon recalled the curse. They didn’t want to say anything earlier, but somehow the story of the Phantom and Christine didn’t end like in the original novel. They had an obscure text which referred to a particular journal written by Leroux. Possibly the same one Todd researched earlier and yes, they held this as proof of Erik’s existence.

Lars didn’t care to hear more. They came to investigate the paranormal, but all he’d heard screamed superstition and old wives’ tales. If Erik proved human and not a spirit, then they had nothing to do. An eccentric old recluse squatting in the fifth cellar became the problem of the manager and gendarmes; not paranormal investigators.

At this, Marco suggested a séance. Everybody agreed but Donna and Tremaine. Donna reasoned that such practices summoned more than the designated deceased. Tremaine had a bad experience at one and never wanted to participate in another.

“What bad experience? All we need is to get answers from those we know are dead and may be haunting certain areas,” Lars tried to keep a level head.

“I tend to agree with Donna, only she kind of got it from me. My Aunt Trudy had medium…”

“Channeler,” Lars corrected.

“Okay, she had a channeler come in to contact my Uncle Beanno. My uncle never answered but something called the ‘core of darkness’ did. The thing took over the channeler’s body and did a number on my aunt and her house. By the
time the cops came, they had to shoot the channeler with a tranquilizer gun,” Tremaine finished in a shaky voice and then tried to pull up his shirt, but the bandages on his hands got in the way. So, Todd helped him.

There on his ribs he sported a deep, nasty looking scar. He continued, “Beforethe cops came, this is what it did to me. It said the core of darkness must join the heart of midnight or I would die before my thirty-second birthday.”

With all their knowledge of myths, legends and superstitions, Ray and Dillon had never heard such a thing. They attended séances quite often and not once had they experienced or heard tell of one like Tremaine’s.

Todd had to agree. Sounded like another curse. Lars furrowed his brow and narrowed his eyes at Tremaine. “This ‘heart of midnight’ stuff just popped up on this case, but you’ve heard of it before? Why didn’t you say something?”

“Well I was like busy GETTING BAKED and I’ve only heard you guys talking about ‘HEART OF MIDNIGHT’ just now!” he finished in his Southwestern drawl. Tremaine felt insulted and offended. Didn’t nearly dying cut him some slack? Anger rose
from within and his face flushed red.

“Tremaine, calm down. Lars is only asking a question,” Todd tried to reason.

“Did you know what all this meant; you’re attack and the ‘heart of midnight’ joining ‘core of darkness’ stuff?”

The poor fellow hung his head. Donna tried to comfort him with her good arm. Then Tremaine replied sadly, “No. I was only twelve then. In three days I will be thirty-two, if I survive this case.”

“Don’t talk like that. You will survive!” Dillon tried to comfort him as well.

“That sounds like a song or was it ‘I will survive’?” Lars mocked. The others shot him an annoyed look.

“Back to business. A séance sounds good to me. If you and Donna feel uncomfortable about it, by all means don’t participate. We’ll start tonight’s investigation at ten-thirty. So, we’ll have the séance at nine. Ray witnessed a black mass, most of us have seen the mourning ghost lady on stage, and of course, the infamous Opera Ghost…”

“He’s not dead,” the young blonde stated as a matter-of-fact. A far away look in her eyes told the men something possessed her. “He can’t die.” Donna’s voice sounded strange, outer worldly.

Dillon shook her hard. “Donna, snap out of it. What’s wrong with you?”

Suddenly, she shook her head and returned to herself. “Nothing. Nothing’s wrong. Why are you shaking me?” she asked in wonderment as she pulled away.

*********************************
As nine o’clock rolled around, Marco sat at a table center stage while all the team except for Donna and Tremaine, sat at the table with him. The séance would be taped as part of the evidence should the dead speak to them.

In the remains of the manager’s office, Donna and Tremaine manned the monitors. At least they could hear and see the séance without actually being in the same
room.

If anything should go wrong, Lars instructed them to stop the séance. But what could go wrong?

Marco allowed only the lights backstage to stay on. He wanted to use a candle, but in view of all the past mayhem, Lars suggested dimmed backstage lights. They wouldn’t want to set the opera house on fire. Somehow, that sounded familiar, but he didn’t know why.

With this being the third séance as a channeler, Marco took a deep breath and asked all present to hold hands and close their eyes. Then he spoke to his spirit guide, which he called Enrique. With the digital recorders on, Lars hoped they’d catch the voice of Enrique as well as whomever Marco addressed.

After a few moments of chatting with his spirit guide, Marco asked him to bring forth the woman who moaned and wailed on stage. He wanted to know her name and why she grieved.

Nothing happened.

Then he asked for the black mass to identify itself and asked what it wanted.

Again nothing happened.

As Marco continued his questions, Donna and Tremaine watched from the monitors. A wave of nausea washed over the young woman and her eyes began to roll back into her head.

In shock, Tremaine drew back and watched her sway from side to side as she began to chatter away in French. He understood a little. Quickly, he grabbed up the mike and asked the team to stop and come to the manager’s office. His call came over a PA system which boomed all over the auditorium. Lars and Todd broke the circle and shot across the stage, out the doors into the lobby. Ray and Dillon thought to follow when Marco began mumbling something they didn’t understand. It sounded like French as well.

“Allez! Allez immediatement, ou il vous tuera! (Go! Go immediately, or he will kill you!)” The young Latin said this over and over; each time with more emphasis and urgency.

Finally Dillon came to his senses and asked the spirit to speak English if possible and asked its name. This time, the strange voice spoke through Marco in English. “I am called Raoul, le Vicomte de Chagny. I implore you, leave now. Go or he will kill you.”

“Who will kill us? Who are talking about?” Dillon continued his questions.

“He will kill you all. You mean nothing to him. He only wants the one twice cursed of God. Please, I implore you. Go or he will kill you!” The words reverted back to French shouting, “Trop tard! Trop tard! Il est ici. IL EST ICI!” (“Too late! Too late! He is here. HE IS HERE!”)

***************************************
When Lars and Todd entered the manager’s office, Donna yet swayed from side to side saying, “Je t’aime, je t’aime, mais ce n’est pas suffisant. Parce qu’il veut ton âme! Parce qu’il veut ton âme!” (“I love you, I love you, but it’s not enough. Because he wants your soul! Because he wants your soul!”)

Lars ticked a look to Todd and Tremaine, who translated. When he asked her name, she replied, “Je m’apelle Christine Daae, Vicomtess de Chagny.” (“I am called Christine Daae, the Vicomtess de Chagny.”)

Instantly, the monitors shut off along with the lights as silence fell over the entire building.
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PostSubject: Re: HEART OF MIDNIGHT (SEQUEL TO DISCOVERING A LEGEND)   Sun Sep 06, 2009 10:31 am

Too bad I've gotten no reviews. Hope someone has time to R&R. Enjoy!

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HEART OF MIDNIGHT

CHAPTER 7 [PART I]

SMOKE AND MIRRORS

On stage of the Paris Opera, Dillon flicked on his flashlight. In the dead silence, he passed the light around the table across Lars and Todd’s empty seats, and his brother, Ray. When he came to Marco, however, the man they saw was not the Latin occultist, but a rather handsome young blond fellow dressed in a French navy uniform of the late 1800’s. His features seemed so delicate for a man, almost feminine. Staring wild-eyed, he continued his warning in French, telling them he was here. Who he meant, stilled puzzled.

With total excitement, Ray asked, “Who is here? What does he want? Why are you afraid?” Over and over Ray asked these questions. Finally an answer came, but not to his or his brother’s liking.

In the midst of the darkened auditorium, two huge cat eyes stretched across at least ten to fifteen feet over the empty seats. It said nothing, as the vision came at Raoul’s wish. The hour for the entity to speak had not arrived. The two brothers
sat with mouths agape, not sure of what they saw or if they could believe its existence. Neither one had ever seen such a manifestation. Their hearts pounded like a trip-hammer and they trembled like a leaf in a cold winter’s wind.

“He wants the cursed one.

But should he take him, he will take you and me as well. Too late, too late. You’re power is not strong enough. Il est ici! Il est ici!” cried the apparition of Raoul overshadowing Marco.

The moment Lars, Todd and Tremaine entered the theatre with the still possessed Donna, Raoul called to his darling, beckoning. Even in death, the love of the Vicomte for his Vicomtess lingered.

In that instant, Donna took on the look of Christine, dressed in a misty, flowing dress of fine silk and linen. Those beautiful, sad eyes met his and she again began to wail and moan for her beloved Angel of Music.

“Because of him, I died insane. Because of him you died too young. Let death give us peace,” Raoul arose from the table and stretched forth his hand. The longing in his eyes caused the gigantic cat eyes to disappear, as the love for his wife reached out from the grave.

“Because of him I lived a lifetime. Somehow, we must keep him safe…” her voice trailed as once again she took to moaning. The grieving overcame the spirit and the heart-felt moan echoed from wall to wall filling the vast auditorium.

By now the clock stuck midnight, the bewitching hour. Sounds of the organ drifted up through the vents and mingled with the haunting grief of dear, dead Christine.

Lars said nothing. How could he debunk this? Unless someone had setup ‘smoke and mirrors’ he now witnessed a true ghostly possession and an inhuman entity bent on destruction.

Christine left their grasp and moved to Raoul. As soon as the two came together, they joined hands and ascended, leaving their living vessels behind. Donna and Marco collapsed; Ray grabbed the woman and Dillon the man.

Suddenly the light backstage popped on and so did all their equipment. Todd ran to the camera stage right as Lars and Tremaine quickly ran to see how Donna and Marco fared.

Nothing made sense. After checking all the equipment, they found nothing out of order, but still what they wanted to record, wasn’t there. Once again, because the power shut down before the apparitions and warnings, they still had no taped evidence. Or did they?

Unbeknown to all, Lars and Todd recorded some thermal and a few night vision shots. These are special photos from cameras, generally attached to a strap worn around the head of a person moving in pitch black. Special military operations sometimes wore these on covert missions. As proven here, some specters clung to the abyss of shadows. Hopefully they caught something. It seemed if they held the device, nothing could act upon it, but if it stood alone, to record by itself, outside forces would interfere.

Clearly someone or something watched their every move. In the unsettling aftermath of the séance, the unnerving sounds of the organ played on, bringing chills to its listeners.

Donna and Marco quickly recovered. The young woman remembered nothing after the séance started and neither did Marco. Yet, Dillon remembered his and Marco’s agreement to bring Donna to Erik. Should they keep their promise? What did he want with her?

Gritting his teeth, Dillon blurt out the deal. “Marco and I promised Erik we’d bring Donna to him.” He ticked a look from one investigator to another.

“You what?” Donna shook her head as if to clear her mind.
Did she hear right? “I thought I heard you say you promised to bring me to Erik?”

At this, Dillon ran his fingers through his ash colored hair and nodded. Donna sat speechless. Lars couldn’t believe his ears.

“Wait! What do you mean, promised to bring her to Erik? How
does he know her and why does he want her brought to him? If he’s alive, why doesn’t he come to her?” Todd tried to understand.

Recovering from his possession, Marco said he thought Erik no longer ventured out after midnight. So if he did come to her it would have to be in the early evening, but so far, she’s never alone.

“Except when I woke up this afternoon,” Donna recalled. “Something peeked at me from the bathroom mirror. At first I thought it was poor lighting, but I definitely saw eyes watching me from the corner of the mirror. Just for an instant,” the young woman shuddered as she finished.

Nothing seemed to add up. Someone didn’t want anything recorded. If they didn’t get a single piece of evidence, then they will have wasted their time. Should someone alive be sabotaging their equipment, then perhaps they had something to hide, something they didn’t want anyone to discover; a murder or hidden treasure perhaps?

The spectral shades of Christine and Raoul appeared authentic, but some very real hauntings have been staged with ‘smoke and mirrors’, to fool the very best ghost hunter.

“I feel like someone’s playing us,” Lars looked around the theatre. With all the lights on, the team combed every inch of the place looking for something to prove someone set up the hauntings. Maybe a hidden projector to create a hologram or a hidden camera to pickup and project an image. Still and all, they found nothing to substantiate this thought.

Before turning off the lights, Lars cautioned and reminded everyone to stay exactly where the monitors and cameras set. Unlike the night before, he didn’t want anyone wandering off to investigate trapdoors or hidden passages. And he also said no boat rides on the underground lake, no scuffling with robots, and no tanning sessions in the torture chamber. Without saying it, no one planned to visit any wigged-out eccentrics in the old Communard prison.

Looking down at her cast, Donna whole heartedly nodded her
agreement for she would oversee command central in the manger’s office, Tremaine waved his bandaged hands as he and Dillon teamed up to stake out the stage. Todd and Ray would take a walk through the third cellar, while Lars and Marco sat in box five. This time, they would only look for evidence in the areas the manger pointed out and nothing
more. Any signs of danger and they’d pack up and leave.

After Lars’ pep talk, out went the lights. Once everyone reached their prospective post, each radioed Lars. So far, so good. The clock chimed one in the morning.

As Lars chatted about what appeared to be Christine and Raoul, he noticed the small pouch fastened to a leather strip which Marco wore around his neck. In all the excitement,
the young man had not explained the mojo bag.


“A what?” frowned Lars.

“Don’t mean to be rude, but the old guy was a bit off, wouldn’t you say?” he asked referring to Erik.


CONTINUED IN THE FOLLOWING POSTING
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PostSubject: Re: HEART OF MIDNIGHT (SEQUEL TO DISCOVERING A LEGEND)   Sun Sep 06, 2009 10:47 am

CHAPTER 7 [CONCLUSION]

Smoke and Mirrors


“Not at all. He was not crazy. In fact, I believe him. If it wasn’t for him, Donna and Tremaine would have died in that hot-box,” Marco finished, clutching the bag.

As they chatted, the cat eyes stretching ten to fifteen feet across the empty audience seats appeared in the dark. At seeing the eyes, Tremaine and Dillon let out a scream loud enough to wake up the dead. Lars and Marco peered over the balcony only to see the enormous eyes staring back at them. They fell dumb struck.

Lars checked the thermal camera; the eyes definitely showed
up as a hot spot, red hot!

The temperature readings dropped to a freezing twenty-nine degrees. Their breath smoked and they all took to shivering.

“Who are you?” asked Marco.

“Did you work at the opera house?” But before he could continue, an unseen force sent him crashing to the floor.

“I came for what’s mine,” roared the cat eyes. “Give him up,” and with that an icy puff of wind sent the men in box five and on stage crashing to the floor, as well as the cameras. Then the eyes vanished as quickly and quietly as they had appeared.

*********************************

Wandering around with a recorder in hand, Todd asked questions of any earthbound spirit which may reside in the third cellar. Ray tried to make contact with Lars, but once again static ruled the airways. This didn’t set will with him and he held up the radio so Todd could hear the static. He furrowed his brow with worry.

“Something’s happened,” Ray’s bottom lip quivered. “I get static trying to reach anybody in the theatre.”

“Call Donna. See if she’s okay. Maybe she can reach the others,” suggested Todd.

Reaching Donna presented no problem. According to her, everything looked normal. As she spoke, her eyes panned the monitors, first with the Lars and Marco sitting in the balcony seats chatting; second with Dillon and Tremaine moving about asking questions of a resident spirit. For some reason, she did not see the huge cat eyes or when it pushed them back with an invisible force sending them all sprawling to the floor. She saw what the entity wanted her to see.

As soon as she signed off with Todd and Ray, she called Tremaine. He answered and said nothing had happened so far. Lars gave the same reply.

Through all this, that infernal organ continued to play. Its haunting notes filled the air with a siren’s call for a long, lost love. This ethereal melody filled the auditorium, saturating the black abyss holding the unconscious team members. None of which Donna heard.

Todd had a bad feeling about the static, so he and Ray made their way upstairs, but just as they reached the top step, the door burst open, and blocking the doorway looked like something resembling a dark winged personage. Flashing a light across its face, the mechanical Phantom or Phanbot hissed and snarled beneath its black fedora and death’s head.

At this, the two men made an about face and ran back toward the third cellar, with the tin can full of wires lumbering after them.

As they ran, it seemed the Phanbot wanted them to go in a particular direction and would block any other path they tried to take. Soon they found themselves tumbling down a trapdoor into a passageway which opened up a hidden door in the wall of Erik’s sitting room in his house at the old Communard prison. As soon as they rushed into the room, Erik played the final cords of his dissonant song. For a moment he sustained the chords for a dramatic effect, and then he gracefully lifted his bony fingers, and spun around on the bench.

“Ah Ray, how kind of you to visit and you’ve brought Todd. A pleasure messieurs,” Erik arose from the bench, drew himself up to his full height and gave a quick bow. The men trembled before his awesome countenance. Again he dressed in black
Victorian opera attire, with the black death’s head covering his face. No hat graced his head, but rather a dark hair piece which seemed to suite him quite well.

Motioning for the Phanbot to leave, their grim host led them to the sofa and offered them a seat. Once again, he served refreshments, only this time of steaming hot tea and a mouth watering array of small cakes and biscuits.

Todd couldn’t help but stare at the Phantom. After reading the novel, he felt the story might be true, like most ardent fans, but meeting Erik in the flesh opened up a whole new avenue. Erik noticed the look on his face and knew instantly what ran through his mind.

“Yes, Todd, I am Erik, the Opera Ghost. Some refer to me as the Phantom of the Opera. No, I am not a spirit,” the Phantom spoke with confidence and authority.

“Y…You know my n…name,” Todd stammered.

“Yes, yes, I know the name of everyone in the opera house. Pardon me for changing the subject, but where is Donna? Dillon and Marco promised to bring her to me. So, where is she?” Erik stared at the men from empty hollows. This unnerved both men making them shift nervously in their seats.

“I know you got her safely out of the torture chamber. For this I do apologize. I should have shut off that passage a long time ago, but as they say in America, old habits die hard,” he said with a weird sort of chuckle.

“She’s in the manager’s office monitoring the places we set cameras and recorders,” Dillon nervously offered.

“I apologize for the misbehavior of my Opera Ghost doubles. They can get out of hand on occasion. Please apologize to Lars. I didn’t mean for it to attack him or any of you,” Erik neither drank nor ate this time. He just sat back and chatted with the investigators as though he’d known them forever.

“What are those things? You made them? They look like you…” Todd tried to remain polite and composed.

“In the past I used to create automatons or automatas, but they became so antiquated and fragile; always needing a key to wind them up after they ran down. With so much time on my hand, I studied what you call AI, artificial intelligence. Much more sophisticated. They don’t need a key, they don’t run down and with just the right program, they can almost think,” Erik poured each another cup of tea.

“Please Todd, ask me anything.”

Clearing his throat, Todd leaned forward and stared into empty hollows, “Not to be rude, but shouldn’t you be dead? I mean, if you are the real Phantom, didn’t that event with Christine happen in the late 1800’s? If he were still alive he’d be…”

“One hundred and seventy-five years, three months and two day old,” finished the Phantom in a matter-of-fact way. The two investigators exchanged puzzled, frightened looks. Ray recalled Tremaine’s fear of the séance and his explanation that the core of darkness must join the heart of midnight or he’d die before his thirty-second birthday.

“Are you sure? Tremaine told you this?” Erik acted surprised. How strange! He always seemed to know everything they said or did. How did this escape him? “When did he say these things?” With uneasiness, Erik shifted in his seat.

“This afternoon, a few hours before the séance,” came the shaky reply. “Do you know what it means?”

“The ‘Core of Darkness’ is a creature from the nether world looking for me. For this reason, I gave Marco a bag of herbs to wear around his neck for protection. For this reason each and every entrance to this house has a protection spell hewn in runes over the doors, archways and windows. The AI Phantoms I created to deceive the beast, to divert its attention elsewhere, as well as a protection,” a slight tremor edged the Phantom’s voice. He went on to explain, that one young man had to be chosen in each generation to participate in a ritual to merge the heart of midnight with the ‘Core of Darkness’. In doing this, the creature would be forced to return to that fiery pit called hell.

With this explanation, their dark host arose and bade them follow him. In a deserted corner of the stone house, Erik uncovered a peculiar, gold leaf, oval shaped mirror with intricate carvings of cats; from domestic pets to jungle predator. A gold colored plaque over the mirror read: Le Passage à l'Enfer (Gateway to Hell).
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PostSubject: Re: HEART OF MIDNIGHT (SEQUEL TO DISCOVERING A LEGEND)   Sun Nov 01, 2009 10:44 am

Still no comments, huh? Still hoping to get some feedback.

Here is the next chapter. Please R&R. Enjoy!

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CHAPTER 8

CORE OF DARKNESS

Four hours into the investigation, Donna noticed an empty third cellar. When she radioed Ray and Todd, static filled the airways. The door to the manager’s office had not been replaced, adding to her uneasiness. Her only defense would be the flare gun left behind by Lars.

As she panned the other monitors, she found Lars and Marco on the floor of box five. In fear she looked to the stage and found Tremaine and Dillon on the floor as well. At first she feared the worse, since no one moved, but with her radio transmission toggling from one to the other, the men began to rally at her voice.

According to Marco the monster cat eyes represented the ‘Core of Darkness’, an inhuman entity looking for souls, especially of the one twice cursed of God. The creature must be sent back from where it came during the ‘heart of midnight’ or it would claim every soul present and send them to a place ‘beyond darkness’.

No one quite understood any of this. They got the drift it was really bad, but how could anyone fathom going away into a bottomless pit, a place ‘beyond darkness’? At this, Lars ordered all the lights on. After checking each camera, they once again found they’d all stopped once they hit the floor. All the recorders had stopped as well. When Donna rewound the footage from the monitors, it recorded what she’d seen; all investigators sat in the prospective posts like nothing had happened. Apparently, the film looped, as if someone had done this deliberately.

Everyone had more than enough with all this craziness with the equipment not recording, so everything they reset to record for a few more hours unattended while they got some sleep.

By now, Ray and Tremaine emerged from the third cellar as if nothing had happened. Should they tell the others Erik again requested Donna’s presence? Currently, he didn’t demand or order, but rather requested her presence. Why so gentle about it, they had no idea. Tremaine understood he figured in a ritual to send the ‘Core of Darkness’ back from whence it came, and somehow Donna had to be there. Erik would oversee the rites. The young man hated being deceitful, but most likely, the others would protest, especially Lars and Donna, herself.

When asked where they had gone since they didn’t show up on the monitors, Ray lied, saying he and Tremaine only moved out of visual range checking each corner of the cellar. It sounded reasonable, so Lars said nothing more. No one could explain the static, so they let that one alone.

While the rest of the team cleaned up and went to bed, happy not to spend an agonizing night like the one before, Marco sat up a little longer going over his book on runes and another smaller one on inhuman creatures. Something about Ray and Tremaine’s brief disappearance from the monitors didn’t set right with him and the excuse sounded lame.

From ancient Egyptian beliefs, the cat goddess Baste played an important role in the lives and culture of the times. An obscure text claimed the cat goddess controlled dimensional portals. The keeper of this one she called the ‘Core of Darkness’ making it impervious to any weapon forged. It possessed no human qualities and granted no mercy whatsoever. Few writings mentioned this creature and none who’d seen it lived to tell the tale. At this Marco shuddered and closed his eyes. A wave of nausea washed over him.

As he continued to read, he found a passage referring to a mirror fashioned from an enchanted glass backed by quicksilver. The gold leaf, oval shaped mirror displayed intricate carvings of cats; from domestic pets to jungle predator. Within the carvings lay the key to the creature’s weakness. The proper ritual would open a portal through the mirror and send the beast howling back to its fiery inferno. Few priests knew of such an entity or the rites to send back from whence it came. From here on a step by step record of the ritual and the incantations appeared. Marco didn’t know what to think. Tremaine fit the description of the young man who must willingly participate in the ceremony and die if needed. Tremaine, himself mentioned something of this nature.

This time, Marco frowned and looked up from the musty old tome. This didn’t make sense. If the ‘core of darkness’ didn’t merge with the ‘heart of midnight’ in the next day or so, he’d die anyway and Erik’s soul would be lost forever! So what would make the ritual claim Tremaine’s life if he did something good, like banish evil back to hell?

Since the ‘heart of midnight’ referred to the hours between midnight and dawn, they needed to perform said ritual during those hours.

Taking this information to Lars did not help matters. Certainly he believed in ghosts, inhuman entities and paranormal activity, but this ‘core of darkness’ merging with the ‘heart of midnight’ sounded too much like a fairy tale. Lars needed solid, scientific proof. Something they could capture on film or recordings, not mumbo-jumbo about rituals and magick.

Sitting propped up in bed Lars glared at Marco.

“How can you be so stubborn? You believe in the paranormal, ghosts and demons, but you can believe in a ritual to banish the ‘core of darkness’. It’s an inhuman entity that needs to be sent back where it came from. What’s so difficult in accepting this as truth?” Marco frowned at his friend and leader’s disbelief.

“Nothing can logically prove that magick is the answer to all that’s happened here. What is the ‘core of darkness’? It’s the ‘bogeyman’ story mothers tell their kids to make them behave,” Lars snapped.

“Wouldn’t you call this the paranormal?” Marco looked bewildered at Lars stubborn protest. “You saw the huge cat eyes. That’s the ‘core’ manifesting itself.”

“Did we get it on tape? NO! Did we record the voice? NO! Did we frickin record anything? No again. Only what we capture with a hand held, but nothing else,” sputtered the disgruntled leader.

“Next time, I’ll keep a digital camera on me and ask it to pose, how’s that?” Marco huffed with sarcasm and marched off.

Todd agreed with Marco making Lars angrier. No soul-sucker would upset his investigation. He would finish this case if was the last thing he did.

*************************

In her stark white comfy bed, Donna slept soundly, not hearing the creak of the floor boards as someone or something slowly moved toward her bed. The drawn curtains being so dark and heavy held back the light of day. In a moment, dark wings overshadowed her and whisked her away down into the open trapdoor behind the dresser which moved back into place.

Quickly and quietly the darkly clad figure carried off the sleeping Donna down into the middle pits of a never-ending night. When it came to the lake, the figure placed the sleeping beauty into the boat and hopped in and began to row as though it meant life or death.

When Donna awoke, only meaning to turn over and go back to sleep, she flinched and sat straight up in bed at the sight of a man dressed in black opera attire of Paris in the late 1800’s, wearing a black death’s head. Filled with dark colored furniture of late 19th Century France, it made her feel she had taken a trip back into time.

For a moment, she stared at the masked man before saying, “Erik, is that you?”

“Ah, you recognized me. How kind of you. What gave away my identity? The cut of the clothes or my incredibly handsome looks,” the dark host chuckled at his poor attempt at humor.

The startled young woman didn’t quite know what to say. All her life she’d read and adored the classic novel by Gaston Leroux, but to actually look upon the death’s head of a man who claimed to be the real Phantom didn’t make sense. Should the man actually be alive, he’d be well over one hundred years old. Perhaps she actually conversed with a ghost.

“Please forgive me for carrying you off like this, but your friends would never keep their promise and since I didn’t want to strangle them yet, I took it upon myself to bring you here myself,” the Phantom’s voice carried with such authority and grace only fit for royalty. In the semi-darkness, the glint from empty hollows gave the illusion eyes looked back at her. Nothing described the mix of awe and terror which washed over the young woman.

“So young women sleep in boxer shorts and T-shirts, huh? Interesting! Very interesting. Much less then the women from my time,” the Phantom continued. Feeling his eyes undressing her, Donna pulled the covers up around her.

“You are very beautiful, my dear, very beautiful. I don’t mean to frighten you, but I do get rather lonely down here. May I offer you a cup of tea or a glass of wine?” As he leaned forward, closer to her, she could smell the distinct odor of medicine, like a doctor’s office or a hospital.

“You’ve kidnapped me…” her voice trailed. By now a cold chill ran through her making the hands trembled. Quietly the Phantom arose and excused himself, saying he’d fetch her some tea. Then he disappeared from the room, leaving the door open.

Where had he taken her? Taking in all the room had to offer, she decided to leave. She didn’t have any shoes. All she now owned she wore, the shorts and T-shirt. Not a very proper when meeting someone for the first time.

Wrapping the blanket around her, she moved out to the sitting room where Erik set a tray of tea and sweets on a small table in front of a sofa and overstuffed chair.

Noticing the blanket around her, Erik mentioned clothes in the closet being her size. How would he have clothes to fit her if he hadn’t been expecting her?

“Why did you bring me here?” Donna stood a good distance away from the table and sofa. Too many questions swirled in her mind and her body told her leave the room screaming.

“You are such a lover of the novel; I thought it only proper that you meet the man in the story. And I need a little companionship. Cream and sugar?” Erik asked with honey and sugar dripping from his mouth, figuratively of course.

In a moment the old grandfather’s clock struck eight pm. Had she slept that long?

“Perhaps you’d feel more comfortable if you got dressed,” he nodded toward the bedroom. “And please do not attempt to leave. I should not wish to fight the ‘Core’ for you since it really me it wants. The fight might be redundant,” he said as a-matter-of-factly.

“What do you mean ‘Core’? What’s a core?” She eyed him suspiciously.

“Why the ‘Core of Darkness’ of course.” Then she recalled the silly story Tremaine told and some mumbo-jumbo she overheard Ray
and Marco talking about.

“Please sit if you don’t wish to dress,” the Phantom offered. When she sat, he sat. “I shall be honest. I want more than companionship. I want a wife. Being doomed for eternity is such torment if you must endure alone. My cold, stiff body needs a soft, warm one like yours next to it.” Something in his voice made her
think he smiled at her.

“Are you asking me to marry you?” Donna couldn’t believe her ears.

“However you want me, my sweet. Through the years I’ve seen my story make transitions I could never have imagined, from Lon Chaney portraying me as Devil’s Island escapee to Andrew Lloyd Weber’s version as a sex symbol portrayed by Gerard Butler. We shall dispense with all the ones in between. I rather fancied myself as Gerard Butler. You do see the resemblance, don’t you?” A chuckle followed, but Donna said nothing at first, not sure if he meant to be funny or dead serious. Obviously nothing about the handsome actor even remotely resembled the real Phantom. And Donna did not look forward to an unmasking. Some things should be left to the imagination.

“You’ve hardly spoken a word. Have I bored you to tears?”

“Please, Erik, I’m flattered you want to marry me, but we really don’t know each other and I really need to be going,” a slight tremor laced her words. He noticed her shivering and offered to warm her with a tight embrace.

“I have not held a woman since my beloved Christine died. Oh, how I miss her. She was everything to me. Everyday I wish for death, but yet I’m here, doomed to suffer for all eternity.”

Donna tried to be brave. Not once did she wish to show fear or that she didn’t care for his well being, but she had to get out. In reality, she didn’t want to get stuck there all night. According to Marco and Tremaine, anyone wandering beneath the Paris Opera during the ‘heart of midnight’ would be fair game for the ‘Core of Darkness’. Not sure she wanted to believe this, or if the Opera Ghost really existed, but there he stood in all his dark majesty.

She made an attempt to say something when a scratching came to the front door of the stone house. It became most unnerving and because of this she said nothing. The scratching and stiffing grew louder. Erik explained the dark of the fifth cellar called to creatures of the night. Then he explained the denizen of darkness had the calling of gatekeeper to a dimensional portal bestowed upon it by Baste, the Egyptian cat goddess. The scratching and stiffing only manifested what sought his soul every night, the Core of Darkness.
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PostSubject: Re: HEART OF MIDNIGHT (SEQUEL TO DISCOVERING A LEGEND)   Fri Dec 10, 2010 12:49 pm

Wow! I love your works, PhantomnessFay!!

Keep up with your good work!

rendeer Merry Christmas to all!

S
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PostSubject: Re: HEART OF MIDNIGHT (SEQUEL TO DISCOVERING A LEGEND)   Sat Dec 11, 2010 9:20 am

Thank you so much syoonchannel. You are so kind. I didn't think anyone was reading this. Since I now have a reader I shall post the rest of the story.

Here is Chapter 9. Please R&R (read & review). Enjoy!

*****************************************************************

CHAPTER 9

TO BE LIKE OTHER MEN

Sitting at the table in the manager’s office, Lars browsed through copies of what Marco dubbed choice parts of Gaston Leroux’s journal. It amazed him how authentic the account sounded, even the Flying Dutchman curse seemed real. He toggled back and forth with these copies and the ancient text about the ‘Core’.

In a few moments, a panicky Tremaine burst in, rambling something about Donna not being in her room and no where to be found. This, among other things gave Lars a head ache. Again, another team member has gone missing, and he still had to find out why none of the equipment recorded.

As the remaining team searched for Donna, Todd suggested they look at the footage from the hall. When they did, all looked normal until about two thirds of it gave way to an instant of static and then back to normal. The camera had been tampered with. A spirits don’t loop film, but maybe a Ghost did. Then Todd suggested they set up a hidden camera. Instead of trying to sneak a peak at restless spectres, perhaps they should look to the living. Some one alive didn’t want them to tape anything.

The manager, Renaud Auberjeanois wouldn’t do that. He looked to nervous and upset to lie. Besides, if he wanted hard core facts, he wouldn’t sabotage the equipment. Mme. de Longes, director of le corps de ballet, wouldn’t do it, since she seemed scared out of her wits and would welcome anyone who would get rid of the ghosts. An average person wouldn’t know how to loop film, create static or want to stop the recordings, except…

“The Opera Ghost; it has to be him,” Ray came to the conclusion. Todd and Tremaine agreed. Marco and Dillon sat with puzzled looks on their faces. Lars nodded.

“Who do we know living, or so he says, except for him? If we prove the place is haunted, especially by Christine and Raoul, the entire world of Phantom-worshipers’ would be here. This homeless guy knows this,” Lars reasoned.

“He’s not homeless. His furniture looks better than mine,” Marco corrected.

“Did you mention this to Auberjeanois? Did you tell him about the man called Erik?” Lars ticked a look to each man.

“No. He looked too upset, after having to remove the mechanical Phantom and all,” replied Marco, shaking his head.

“Well I asked the police commission, and do you know what they said? Don’t speak of these things. Jokes are not taken lightly. This is all a big joke. The cops know it, so stop acting like we’ve walked into the Phantom’s lair. There is no Phantom, no Erik, just some lonely old homeless who settled in one of the cellars.” With this, Lars looked about as they stood in the middle of the grand foyer. Certainly it would not be possible to search every inch of the Paris Opera. If some maniac stalked Donna and tampered with their equipment, he definitely knew the place better than they.

“We’ve got a few hours of daylight left. Tremaine and I will take a little boat ride along the underground lake and see if we can find the place you said this Erik lives. The rest of you, go through what we’ve recorded thoroughly and see if we’ve got something better. If all else fails, we may have to have another séance,” Lars sounded confident, like he knew what he was doing. Actually, he felt a bit unnerved. Maybe not really scared, but like something bad may happen and he had no power to stop it.

**************************
In the Phantom’s lair, the scratching and sniffing ceased. With the sun up, everything seemed normal, even five cellars below the opera house. Donna had drained of color. Nothing logical could explain what she had heard.

Quietly she sat on the sofa and took some tea. At this, Erik rambled about how much she reminded him of his beloved late Christine. The blonde of her hair matched his darling’s as did the blue of her eyes.

“Do you sing, Donna? I should like to hear you sing if you do,” he spoke softly, in even restful tones.

“Sorry, I don’t. Can’t even carry a tune,” she tried to smile.

“Your eyes have questions, but when it comes to asking, your heart fails. Why? Am I so fearful? I can be lots of fun. I would make you happy. We could move, if you don’t like the cellars,” Erik rambled.

At the moment, she didn’t answer. He wanted a wife. This sounded like an old horror movie. Monster returns for beauty. Yes, Beauty and the Beast, The Mummy, The Phantom of the Opera, and last but not least, King Kong. Great! Just great, sarcastically speaking. What should she do? She didn’t want to make him angry or upset, but she had no plan to be with him no matter where he lived.

“Are you in love with Tremaine?” his tone changed.

“No,” she replied quickly. “We’re only fellow ghost hunters. Nothing more,” she tried to stay calm. The conversation became more and more complicated and scary.

“You wouldn’t lie to poor Erik, would you? I will know if you lie.”

“I’m not lying. He might like me, but I have no feelings for him. Really…”

For the moment, Erik seemed to accept this and stopped with the twenty-questions. Presently they sipped tea and ate sweets in silence.

“You want me to let you go,” Erik said after a long while. “I can’t do that. You will not return if I do,” he set down this cup and saucer.

“Would you keep me a prisoner? If I refuse to marry you, what then?” The young woman still had mixed feelings. Would he force his desires on her?

“Marry me or not, you will be my companion. You will learn to love me. Yes, yes, I’ve seen the musical film, and I sound like it, but it’s true. Fear can turn to love.” He sounded determined.

Dread filled her soul with the thought, but she said it anyway. “I’d like to see your face. Since you’ve been living in the 20th and 21st Centuries, you know we have cosmetic and reconstructive surgery. Surely your face is not so deformed that modern doctors cannot not fix. Wasn’t this one of your desires, to live like other men?” When the last word fell from her lips, she knew she said the wrong thing.

Erik arose without a word and moved to her. She tried to get away, but he acted rather quick and had her in his grasp before she knew it. The blanket fell to the floor. Empty hollows looked down at her bare feet and legs. Deformed or not, he still felt urges like a man and wanting to do more than merely touch the beauty.

“You want to see Erik’s face? Again we have a curious woman. Wouldn’t you like to make love to a man wearing a mask? Isn’t that what excites the modern woman? So brave and independent you are. Come my daring little flower. Pluck the mask from Erik’s face.” The soothing calm left his voice. Laced with agitation and a mix of other agonizing emotions in his words, he held her tight and looked down into her beautiful face.

Most women would faint to escape the impending horror, but poor Donna couldn’t even do that. “Go on,” he urged. “Unmask the beast. What does Erik look like?” Slowly she reached up as he lowered his face to hers. With trembling hands she took hold of each side of the mask and off it came.

“Now my little one, tell if you think any doctor could fix this face,” came the cold statement. Wide-eyed and speechless, Donna stood with mouth agape as the hideous remains of a face stared back at her. A skull with yellowish skin stretched over it stared at her through empty sockets. The stench of medicine swirled around her and this time she fainted dead away. Not every woman had the privilege of having death and age creep over her like this. No one would hear her scream this far below the ground. The crazed laughter of a madman filled the chamber as the Phantom gathered her into his arms and disappeared into the bedroom.
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PostSubject: Re: HEART OF MIDNIGHT (SEQUEL TO DISCOVERING A LEGEND)   Sat Dec 11, 2010 9:28 am

Since I now have an audience I will post one more chapter. The story is not very long.

I now present Chapter 10. Please R&R (read and review). Enjoy!

*****************************************************************

CHAPTER 10

SHE SINGS TO BRING DOWN THE CHANDELIER

The night had just begun as Lars and Tremaine rowed the small boat along the underground lake. Dank air filled their lungs and nearly made them gag at times. Always a chill from cold and fear ran through their bodies at various times. Again, the feeling of being watched came over them and fearfully they looked around.

Nothing!

Everything seemed in order. For all intents and purposes, they appeared to be alone. Only the sound of their oars slapping the water rang throughout the cavern.

From some reason, Tremaine looked over the side of the boat. Two huge cat eyes as big as a man stared back at him. Gasping he jumped.

“What’s wrong?” Lars narrowed his eyes and looked around again. Speechless, Tremaine motioned to the water, so Lars looked over the side.

Again nothing!

He saw only stagnate green water. The wall looked luminous like phosphorus. They had a map of the lake, but at the moment it didn’t seem to do much good. They felt lost. Lars kept looking at the map and then at their surroundings. Nothing seemed to match. So much for information from city archives!

From a distance, a faint wailing carried on the stagnate air. As they rowed closer, it grew louder. In a moment, the wail transparent Christine floated before them.

“AHHH! she wailed and it echoed throughout the cavern. “MMMM!” came the moan and too echoed.

Lars stopped rowing. “Christine! Christine! Please tell us why you grieve. Let us help you.”

Once again the spectre repeated its earlier message, “Je t’aime, je t’aime, mais ce n’est pas suffisant. Parce qu’il veut ton âme! Parce qu’il veut ton âme!” (“I love you, I love you, but it’s not enough. Because he wants your soul! Because he wants your soul!”)

As before, Tremaine translated. Wide-eyed Lars turned on his recorder and Tremaine the thermal.

“Who wants whose soul?” Lars wanted to know. In a way, he thrilled to see the ghost and to actually have it communicate with him.

“AHHH!” wailed the spectre. “MMM!’ it moaned. The terrifying echoes bounced off the walls and down the watery path, sending shivers down the spines of both men. Never had Lars ever been afraid in any investigation as in this one.

When the boat drew near, the spectre vanished, leaving behind the mournful wails echoing over and over again.

After some time, they saw the entrance to the Communard prison with the runes hewn over the archway.

With the smelly talisman around his neck, Tremaine stepped out of the boat and pulled it up so he could secure the rope around the pole use for docking.

Lars made sure to get a picture of the runes over the archway. As soon as they passed under it, the wailing picked up and echoed over and over again. The men shivered and moved on.

*********************
Donna suffered a fitful sleep, tossing and turning with clenched fists. Finally she awoke screaming as she sat straight up in bed. Panting, she looked around. There as before, Erik sat in an old fashioned stuffed chair very near her bed. The light danced in the seemingly empty sockets and a cold stiff hand touched her arm.

“Are you well, my dear? I hope the nightmares aren’t troubling.” He did have a soothing quality about his voice. But his hands felt like a block of ice and his face, Good Mercy, his face! “The bad dreams will soon go away.”

He didn’t make sense and she did not want an explanation. She wanted to leave; pure and simple.

“Please let me go,” she begged.

“I cannot do that. You will never return. I cannot bear to live alone any longer. Madness begets madness. That’s how it started,” he rambled. “I promise I won’t hurt you. Even if you won’t marry me, you can still keep me company. Erik can be lots of fun. I know word games and jokes. Do you like card? Poker perhaps?”

“ERIK! STOP IT! You’re rambling is making me nuts. You can’t keep me a prisoner.”

“You’re afraid of me aren’t you? Not just my face, but me. Or is it the demon you fear most of all. Tremaine must come and help me with the ritual to send the thing back from whence it came. And you, you must witness.”

“What are you talking about?” Everything upset and made her angry, but not angry enough to go against him. She knew he wanted her, but the thought made her stomach draw up in knots. How could she love a man that looked dead? The novel said he looked like a living corpse and he did! She could barely look his way.

“You’re afraid of me. I see it. I would never force you to do anything but keep me company. Hurting you gives me no pleasure. As much as I’ve thought of holding you, as I did Christine, I would only want it if you returned my love.”

“I’d like to get dressed. Please give me some privacy,” she requested sternly. Erik refused to budge.

“I’ve seen a woman’s naked form before. I don’t mind. There is nothing more beautiful than the nude body of a young woman.” This sounded flirtatious. Many years had passed since he’d made love to a woman. Even if he didn’t force, he would seduce.

Just as she opened her mouth to speak, Erik began to sing. The sweet sadness of an old aria filled his mouth and spilled out the essence of pure ecstasy. Closing her eyes, Donna felt as if her spirit lifted from her body and soared to the heavens. She could see endless azure skies and limitless earth below.

Before she knew what happened, his fleshless mouth touched hers. The stench of medicine filled her senses. The blanket fell away and his arms wrapped around her. At this moment, it didn’t matter what he looked or smelled like. She belonged to him!

A very loud, sharp knock came to the front door, followed by the impatient ringing of the bell. With Donna in his arms, Erik looked out the peak hole and spied Tremaine and Lars. When the door flung open, the two men couldn’t have been more surprised. Standing with his arm full of Donna in a T-shirt and shorts, stood the Phantom. His black death’s head a little askew from the kissing. His ever so neat and tidy opera attire rumpled from crushing the young blonde in his arms and holding her to his chest.

For a second, it appeared like both Lars and Tremaine might faint at the ghastly sight. As they thought Death had claimed her and stood before them to gloat.

“Please come in,” the Phantom stepped aside. Staring at the unlikely couple as they passed, Lars and Tremaine moved into the sitting room.

“We had expected you, but not so soon,” he continued as he reluctantly released Donna, who didn’t seem to care that her colleagues saw her in the T-shirt and shorts she slept in. Seemed she didn’t care about anyone or anything but Erik.

Being a good host he offered them a seat and some refreshments. Still standing, Lars explained, “I really to hate to break this up, but we kind of need Donna to help us complete our investigation.”

“Of course you do, but will you return her? Tremaine promised to bring her to me, and didn’t. You wouldn’t lie to Erik, would you? I dislike liars, don’t you? ” he said towering over the two. The eerie feeling of being watched but unable to actually see eyes, gave the two chills up and down their spine.

Lars knew he should say it, but he did. “You are really Erik, the Phantom of the Opera, aren’t you? No fooling? You are the Opera Ghost?”

This line of questioning didn’t set well with Erik. Curious women provoked him enough, but curious men? All their poking and prodding with their silly questions.

“I would like to answer you in a special way,” he replied as he reached into his pocked and fingered his lasso gently. “But since Erik is in a good mood, and shall let Donna to go with you, for I will come for her later.” Looking to Tremaine, he continued, “I see you still wear the talisman I gave you. Beware of the lady in crimson. It’s not you she wants. Go! Quickly! Take Donna.”

Having said this, the Phantom pushed the young woman to them and handed her a blanket from the sofa. Then he shoved all three out the door and slammed it.

Shaken the men wrapped Donna in the blanket and headed for the boat. The desolation and decay of forgotten racks and tables of torture along with crumbling cells lent to the eeriness of the entire event.

*****************
By the time the men returned to the upper levels with Donna, the others had taken their assigned places.

As if awakening from a dream, Donna felt embarrassed at her appearance and how she acted. Quickly she disappeared into her room to shower and dress for tonight’s investigation.

Ray and Dillon made sure to check all the equipment. Tremaine double checked the hidden cameras hoping to see if the living had anything to do with sabotaging their evidence.

9: 30 pm Lights out.

For a while they went on their usual routine of calling out to ghosts and asking them to manifest themselves. Nothing happened for a long time.

At the stroke of midnight, the entire place came unglued. Center stage right in front of Ray and his brother, a wispy, transparent apparition of a woman in crimson appeared before them, singing her heart out. No matter what they said, the woman ignored them and continued the aria.

Donna and Todd leaned over the balcony of box five while Tremaine watched over command central in the manager’s office.

Marco and Lars perked up their ears in the third cellar.

“Do you hear her? It’s the lady in crimson Erik warned us of,” Tremaine relayed this to everyone one section at a time.

Ray eased over to the camera stage right. He wanted to make sure it was rolling. As soon as he reached the area a voice boomed from overhead. It rang throughout the opera house, from the auditorium where the spectre sang to the third cellar.

“SHE SINGS TO BRING DOWN THE CHANDELIER!” And with that, the chandelier began to sway, a little at first, then stronger and stronger, until finally the crack and groan of the ceiling gave way sending the immense light fixture crashing into the darkened seats followed by a woman’s blood curdling scream.
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PostSubject: Re: HEART OF MIDNIGHT (SEQUEL TO DISCOVERING A LEGEND)   Sat Dec 11, 2010 9:32 am

I love this chapter!!! you should work on Erik's Journel as well!!! I cannot wait till next chapter comes up!!!

Please continue with your hard work!!!

S rendeer
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PostSubject: Re: HEART OF MIDNIGHT (SEQUEL TO DISCOVERING A LEGEND)   Sat Dec 11, 2010 10:17 am

Hello syoonchannel! Thank you for your lovely comments. You've made my day. I didn't realize you were online.

I shall work on Erik's Journal to finish it now. You will see more of it and this one.

Thank you again.
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PostSubject: Re: HEART OF MIDNIGHT (SEQUEL TO DISCOVERING A LEGEND)   Fri Dec 17, 2010 10:54 am

Merry Xmas to all,

PhantomnessFay! I really love your work and I cannot wait till see another chapter of this one and Erik's Journal!

I personally prefer the Through the looking glass and Erik's Journal ones but, I still like this one.
The phantom here is very different from your other work.

I am glad that I made your day!

Keep up with your good work and I will expect to see more of your works!

Cheers!

S rendeer
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PostSubject: Re: HEART OF MIDNIGHT (SEQUEL TO DISCOVERING A LEGEND)   Sun Dec 19, 2010 2:19 pm

Here is the next chapter. Please R&R. Enjoy!

Thank you.

*****************************************************************

CHAPTER 11

DISCOVERY


The lights popped on in the auditorium and everybody ran to the stage and audience seats, but to their surprise, the lady in crimson had vanished and so did the crashed chandelier. Everything looked normal. The chandelier hung in its place high above the seats and the stage only had poor unnerved and confused Ray and his brother Dillon.

Lars ordered all the cameras checked, especially the hidden ones. They had only been four hours into the investigation, but after all this, the time to quit seemed right. The day after tomorrow would be their last night, so Lars purposed they view all the footage before the last night. Whatever they discovered would make a difference on how they ran the final investigation.

After concluding the lady in crimson and crashing chandelier to be a residual haunting, since the apparition did not interact or acknowledge their existence, the brothers felt more excited and hoped they caught most of it on tape; sound, visual or both.

Todd and Donna felt the same, but Tremaine drained of color, even with the mojo bag Erik had given him. Taking him aside, Marco tried to give comfort, but no use. Something plagued the young man, more than a residual haunting.

A shower and some sleep did most of the team some good. Tremaine did not rest well, and sat up going through the evidence by himself until Todd joined him. He didn’t even feel like eating and his fellow ghost hunter had to ask why.

“I don’t know. My stomach is drawn up in knots and my hands are ice cold. I feel like…like I’m waiting to…”his voice trailed and he hung his head.

Todd studied him carefully. Never had he seen the man like this. They had experienced some crazy, weird things as paranormal investigators, but he had never acted like this.

Before continuing to go through the evidence, he could only say one thing; Erik had something to do with it and feared dying.

“Dying? What? Do you feel like you’re going to die?” Todd frowned and tried to understand.

“I think so. Everything that’s happened and my birthday coming up tomorrow. And…and the ritual thing…I really don’t want to die...” again his voice trailed and he looked away. Todd didn’t know what to say. How could he comfort anyone who felt like that and experienced what he had.
After several hours of digging through the evidence, Tremaine and Todd completed their pile of evidence close to the time Ray and Donna completed theirs.

Once again, anything not hand held recorded nothing. The film showed either static or a blue screen.

Since Ray and Dillon hand held the EVP equipment, part of the aria from the crimson lady and the crashing chandelier recorded quite well. This made everyone happy.

But the biggest find of all came from the hidden cameras. Whether human or not, the film revealed a man dressed like the Phantom pushing the cameras to the floor or actually tampering with the mechanisms. Did Erik do this himself or did he send his last remaining automaton to do his dirty work? What a tremendous find! Now they knew who did the sabotage, but why?

With a discovery like this, Lars didn’t want anyone going below the third cellar. Whatever Erik had in mind, it certainly would not help them. Obviously he only thought of himself.

Donna would not be sent to the third cellar or anywhere the alleged Phantom may pop up. Whatever the old fellow had in mind involved the lovely female and poor frightened Tremaine.

Marco went back to his texts and whatever they had found in the National Archives. Recalling the ritual Tremaine said Erik planned to perform to vanquish this ‘Core of Darkness’-thing, required him and Donna.

Unable to find what he needed at hand, Marco and Lars made a trip to a library which held only books of the paranormal, supernatural and unearthly. There they found the ritual in an obscure book, whose worn cover no longer displayed a title.

The demon called the ‘Core of Darkness’ must be vanquished between the hours of midnight and dawn, on the day of Tremaine’s birth; then the woman involved would become the mate of the twice cursed of God. The incantation which lay on the page before them would open up a portal through a special mirror, and suck the creature back to the inferno from whence it came. This would free the twice cursed from being stalked by the creature, but in the process, the young man involved could die.

The two men exchanged looks. What could they do? Nobody wanted to talk to Erik again and one more night may be fatal. Logically, they should call it quits now. Scientifically and ethically, they should stay and finish the investigations no matter who did or did not survive.
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PostSubject: Re: HEART OF MIDNIGHT (SEQUEL TO DISCOVERING A LEGEND)   Mon Dec 20, 2010 1:09 am

Thank you for this chapter again.

I will be expecting more! Thank you, PhantomnessFay!

Merry Xmas and Happy New Year!

S
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PostSubject: Re: HEART OF MIDNIGHT (SEQUEL TO DISCOVERING A LEGEND)   Sun Jan 16, 2011 3:13 pm

Once again, thank you syoonchannel.

I am posting the final chapter. Please R&R. Enjoy!


*********************************************************************

CHAPTER 12

SURRENDER TO YOUR DARKEST DREAMS

The final night of investigation found all the cameras (even hidden ones), and audio recorders all set and ready to go. The Paris Opera may have been grand its day; grand with talent, galas and intrigue, but today it housed a secret that may literally bring down the roof.

All of the ghost hunters threw a little birthday party for Tremaine, hoping to bring him out of depression. Certainly, he felt grateful they all cared about him and he loved all the gifts, even the little ghost doll Donna made for him. It held a miniature rifle in its arms and had WWPI embroidered on its back. This made the birthday boy smile, but still he held sadness within.

In front of the team he gave Donna a big hug for the gift, but he stole a kiss as well. Taken by surprise, she broke the kiss and gently pushed him back.

“Thank you for being my friend,” he smiled. “I wish we could be more, but my time is running out.” His hands turned ice cold and his face a deathly pallor.

“What?” went the murmur throughout the group.

“Don’t talk like that.” Donna tried to comfort. “Nothing is going to happen to you.” She trembled a little as she spoke.

“I’ve never really been in love, until now. Please, I don’t mean to embarrass you, but this may be the last chance I ever get to say this.” Then he turned to the others and shook hands with each one. “It’s been a pleasure working with all of you. Never has any group made me feel so at home.”

Lars and the others tried to comfort as well, but the time drew near for everyone to take their places. Actually, they hated to leave him like this, but the final investigation had to go on.

10 pm – Lights out - the investigation began. Only cameras in the third cellar this time. No risk of anyone going below or anyone coming up without being seen.

Donna and Marco sat at command central in the manager’s office. Tremaine and Lars took the balcony seat of Box 5 overlooking the stage. This time, Ray and Todd occupied seats where the audience would sit and left the stage empty. Hidden camera still surveyed in secret.

Dillon set up in the area on the far side of the building where they had seen confronted one of the automatons. Whatever came tonight, if it be flesh and bone, they would get a tremendous fight to protect Donna and Tremaine, because Dillon had a baseball bat at his side.

For the next two and a half hours nothing happened. The ghost hunters did their usual asking the name of the spirits and for them to manifest themselves. Some even tried to provoke the ghosts into revealing their presence.

One minute to midnight – the apparition of Christine, the wispy, transparent woman
appeared on stage moaning and wailing. To their surprise, when Ray and Todd asked her if she was Christine, she said yes. When they asked why she haunted the place, she ignored the question, but warned that something evil approached.

In the manager’s office, Donna’s eyes glazed over and she began staring into space as if in a trance. In her mind, she could hear the mesmerizing song Erik had sang to her while in his new lair. As though the mind had been wiped clean, she recalled only Erik and her insatiable desire to be with him.

Marco chatted away while eating chips as he watched the monitors. After ten minutes of no answer from his fellow team member, he noticed she had disappeared. Thinking she had gone to the restroom, he arose and moved to the corridor. The ladies room didn’t seem far, so off he went to knock on the door and make sure she was there.

Leaving the monitors unattended, he didn’t see a dark figure slip into the manager’s office and the gloved hand that switched off the monitors and all the equipment.

Overlooking the stage in Box 5, Lars made sure his hand held EVP recorder was on. As he fiddled with it while glancing over the side, he didn’t hear the hollow column open behind him, nor did he see a dark figure step out grab Tremaine from behind, and close a hand over his mouth. Struggle as he did, the young man could not get away and the dark figure drug him into the opening. Then the column closed, leaving no trace of the birthday boy.

Quietly, Todd and Ray arose from their seats and separated. They needed to get make sure no outside human force showed up on stage. Only ghosts allowed.

The lady in crimson from the night before appeared behind transparent Christine, but no aria issued from her lips. Instead she spoke these words, “Tonight he comes for a soul and no one can refuse. The woman that would be the bride, her life she’ll loose. The man born upon this day will die forever more. Nothing will ever separate darkness from its core.”

When Lars heard this, he whipped around to his partner, but no Tremaine. A horrible realization hit him and he ran from the balcony seats and straight to command central.

No Donna.

Marco met him in the doorway. The lead investigator glared at the man and narrowed his eyes. “Where is she?” he roared.

Marco looked sheepish. “Don’t know. She was here one minute and gone the next. I checked the ladies’ room, but she’s…”

“…not there,” finished Lars. “You idiot!” Since he let Tremaine slip through his fingers, he caught himself.

“Sorry! I’m just as much to blame. Tremaine has vanished,” he moved to the monitors and flipped them on. “Who turned off the equipment?”

“Not me. They were on when I went to look for Donna.” Then came the dawn, again.

“Erik!” they both said in unison. Like a streak of lightening, they flew out to the darkened area on the other side of the building where Dillon sat alone.

There they found him unconscious on the floor, bat in hand and his camera switched off. As Marco patted his face to bring him to consciousness, Lars radioed Todd and Ray. But they had their hands full, with a wailing Christine ghost, a lady in crimson repeating the rhyming message over and over and now the immense cat eyes filling the auditorium.

******************************************
Stretched out a table before the ornate gold-leaf mirror in the Phantom’s current lair, lay Tremaine, bound, gagged and shirtless. Struggling seemed futile for the straps which bound him held fast. Erik stood over him reciting an incantation from a frayed, worn book almost the size of some bibles selected priests carried. Beside Erik stood the gorgeous Donna, her silky blonde hair hanging loose about her face. The gown she wore draped and clung to her figure, showing off her dangerous curves and cleavage.

Something cried like a cat and scratched at the door while Erik continued the chant. An eerie, translucent glow emanated from the looking glass and overshadowed the struggling young man.

Through the glass, a black mass seeped and took form as Raoul. “Let it take your soul and set us free,” came the weird request. Knowing very well who spoke, Erik deliberately ignored him and continued the chant.

“In life you took all I held dear, even my sanity. In the name of all that’s holy, give up your soul and set us free.” The ghostly Raoul then wailed and moaned just as loudly as did ghostly Christine.

Donna stared straight ahead as if she heard nothing. It seemed like her mind connected to Erik and she only heard what he allowed.
Outside the house, the Phantom automaton challenged the dark cat creature pawing at the front door. As the beast turned on the automaton, Lars and the remainder of his team pull up in two small boats. They could hear the cat cries and the squeak and clang of the metallic Phantom.

As they approached the scene, the cat morphed into the figure of a voluptuous female, dressed in the purple robes and attire of an ancient Egyptian deity and vanished. The automaton stood before the door as a sentinel. They had to get in. Donna and Tremaine could be in danger.

Todd caught the things attention and led it away from the door as Lars and the two brothers broke it down.

As they entered the creepy stone house, Erik’s chant caught their ear. When they reached the scene of the ritual, Bast, cat deity of the ancient world now in female form, spread out her arms to receive Tremaine. His bounds broke. Then he sat up and removed the gag. The electric glint from her cat eyes drew him to her and in an instant both were sucked into the misty looking glass. The moment they vanished, the mirror began to clear and the cries of the cat and Tremaine faded into nothingness.

The remainder of the team stared awestruck at the horrible event. The lovely Donna shook her head and blinked as if awakening. Looking around she asked what happened.

Lars moved to the mirror and gingerly touched it. “I had no choice,” declared the Phantom in no uncertain tone. “I knew you would interrupt no matter what. Then the meddling ghosts had to appear of course the core of darkness taking form as the one who sent it.”

No one really comprehended what he meant. “Where is Tremaine? What just happened?” demanded Lars. His face distorted in anger and fear.

“With all the interruptions I had no choice. I tricked the core into the mirror, but your young man was the bait. I’m afraid he is banished to the netherworld with the demon,” Erik explained without emotion.

“You have to bring him back!” Todd shouted and lunged for Erik, but Ray and Dillon restrained him.

“Sadly, I cannot. I may have been able to trick the creature into going into the mirror without him, but with all the noise and interruptions, he became the sacrifice,” Erik continued.

“You can’t mean that. He died to save you?” Todd lashed out.

“He died to save us all. The Core of Darkness steals souls. Even if I went with it, who would stop it from coming after you; all of you,” he ticked a look to each person. Gathering Donna up in his arms, he nuzzled her gently.

“Donna?” Lars moved toward her, but she stopped him.

“No Lars. I want to be here. I belong with Erik,” came the heart-stopping reply.

The men protested violently, but the fear of the Phantom kept them at bay. As a polite host, he offered them tea. Of course they refused as he knew they would. Since he could not allow them to upset his household, he kindly asked them to leave.

Presently, they had lost two team members and this didn’t set well with the men, especially Todd and Lars. Naturally, they made an attempt to jump Erik, but one flick of the Punjab Lasso brought Todd to his knees with the threat of certain death if they didn’t back off. Lars and the others complied, so he released Todd.

“Please go,” begged Donna, fearing for her friends’ lives. “It had to be this way. Erik had no choice. I want to be with him. He needs me,” she said with a smile as she turned to the tall, thin masked man.

Dillon and Ray shuddered at the thought, but what could they do? Reluctantly, the team said good-bye to Donna.

“Please, don’t look back and don’t try to find me. I will never forget you, but it has to be this way,” she finished, clinging to the dark master of the deadly lasso.

With heavy hearts, the remaining ghost hunters left the lair and never looked back. The dying cries of their friend would forever be ingrained in their minds. No one could ever forget sweet Donna. In their hearts, she would always look the way she did when they left her with Erik.

The overall evidence definitely proved the opera house was haunted, not only by the spirits of Raoul, Christine and the cursed Opera Ghost in the flesh, but now by Tremaine and Donna.

One last look at the Paris Opera brought tears to Lars and Todd. Whether they imagined it or not, they heard the faint voices of their lost members telling them good-bye and to never, ever look back. Without a doubt, they had surrendered to their darkest dreams.
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syoonchannel
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PostSubject: Re: HEART OF MIDNIGHT (SEQUEL TO DISCOVERING A LEGEND)   Mon Jan 17, 2011 6:48 am

Aww... Nice ending..

I feel sorry for Tremaine..

Great work and I really appreciate you for your *tips*

Very Happy See u on the other ones.. X

S
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PostSubject: Re: HEART OF MIDNIGHT (SEQUEL TO DISCOVERING A LEGEND)   Sat Jan 22, 2011 11:39 am

Thank you syoonchannel. You are so kind. Those kind words made my day. If I can help more let me know.

I've added another chapter to Erik's Journal.
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PostSubject: Re: HEART OF MIDNIGHT (SEQUEL TO DISCOVERING A LEGEND)   Today at 1:06 am

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